<![CDATA[NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth - Dallas-Fort Worth News - NBC 5 Responds]]>Copyright 2018http://www.nbcdfw.com/news/localen-usSat, 20 Oct 2018 11:47:54 -0500Sat, 20 Oct 2018 11:47:54 -0500NBC Local Integrated Media<![CDATA[Hostess Stuck With Bad Payroll Checks When Restaurant Closes]]>Fri, 19 Oct 2018 17:19:01 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/4p-dream-cafe-signage.jpg

Dream Cafe was once a staple in the town of Addison.

"It would be so busy, to the point people would literally wait like 45 minutes to an hour," said Erica Beaty. 

Beaty worked at Dream Cafe as a hostess for nearly a year.

On Aug. 18, Beaty said she showed up to work her normal shift but instead of seeing hungry customers waiting to be seated, she saw a sign posted on the door:

"… Sadly we have closed our doors for the last time."

Beaty said she was never informed that the restaurant was closing. She said she called her manager and assistant manager, but they didn't answer.

Beaty said she rushed to the bank to deposit her paycheck, but later learned the check bounced.

"I was upset, and then my bank charged me a fee for the check bouncing," she explained.

Beaty said this isn't the first time this has happened. She said one of her Dream Cafe paychecks bounced before, but her manager took care of it right away

But Beaty was worried this time because she had another check that was supposed to come later that month and she worried it may bounce as well.

She said she she visited Dream Cafe in Dallas and was told the owner would take care of it.

"That's just when it all started. I just kept calling and calling and kept getting the runaround," she said. "I needed the money."

When she couldn't get her money, she called NBC 5 Responds to step in.

A manager at Dream Cafe in Dallas said he had no control over payroll, but would let the owner know about the situation.

"That same day, I got a text from the manager, 'Oh hey, I want to make sure you get paid. I want to make sure this gets straightened out,'" said Beaty.

And a of couple weeks later, Beaty got a check for $352.

But there was another problem.

"I go up to the bank Saturday morning.  She (the teller) said 'I'm sorry, I can't cash this check," Beaty explained.

She said she texted the manager again, and he told her to try cashing it the following week because they should have funds then.

So that's what she did.

Thankfully, Beaty finally got the money she worked hard for. 

"Yes! You guys really helped me," she said.

The owner of Dream Cafe, Mary, said it was an abrupt closing at the Addison location. 

She said their landlord brought in another restaurant that also served brunch, and it killed their business.

Mary said it took them a while to get their funds in order, and Erica just so happened to be one person who was affected by that.

She apologized for the delay. 

If you need NBC 5 Responds' help, let us know about your problem here



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Trader Joe's Recalling Salads Over Contamination Fears]]>Fri, 19 Oct 2018 17:51:09 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/trader-joes-salad-recall.jpg

Trader Joe's announced Wednesday a recall affecting three types of salads that may have been contaminated with listeria or salmonella.

A news release on the Trader Joe's website said the recall affects Trader Jose's Mexicali Inspired Salad, Trader Joe's BBQ Flavored Chicken Salad and Trader Joe's Field Fresh Chopped Salad with Grilled Chicken Breast with "Best By" dates between Oct. 15 through Oct. 20.

The release said a supplier warned a corn ingredient used in the salads "may have the potential to be contaminated with listeria monocytogenes and/or salmonella."

Trader Joe's said no contamination has been confirmed and no illnesses have been reported. The grocery chain added that potentially affected products were removed from shelves and destroyed.

Anyone whose purchased affected salads can return them to any Trader Joe's for a full refund.

ONLINE: Trader Joe's salad recall



Photo Credit: Trader Joe's]]>
<![CDATA[Kia, Hyundai CEOs Asked to Appear Before Congress]]>Thu, 18 Oct 2018 14:11:06 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/web_pic_kia_fire_1200x675_1334293059521.jpg

Car makers Kia and Hyundai, owned by the Hyundai Motor Group, are being asked to address reports of non collision-related fires.

We've heard from two North Texas women whose stories were very similar. They were driving their Kias when someone on the road started flagging them down. Before they knew it, they said their cars were covered in flames.

We've since learned that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is looking into certain models and models of Kias and Hyundais that total 1.6 million vehicles.

"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 Florida Sen. Bill Nelson (D).

Nelson said it's time to get down to the bottom of what's causing these fires.

The Senate Commerce Science & Transportation Committee plans to hold a hearing with the CEOs of Kia and Hyundai on Nov. 14.

In a statement to NBC 5 Wednesday, Hyundai said they are reviewing the request to appear before the Senate committee and that they are looking into the reports of fires.

"Nothing is more important than the safety and security of Hyundai customers. Hyundai actively monitors and evaluates potential safety concerns, including non-collision fires, with all of its vehicles and acts swiftly to recall any vehicles with safety-related defects," a Hyundai spokesman said.

Kia, however, has said “a vehicle fire may be due to any number of complex factors.”

In a statement provided to NBC 5 Thursday, Kia said:

Kia Motors America (KMA) shares the goal of the Senate Commerce Committee to assure the safety of the vehicles we sell to our customers and which are driven on American roads. Kia will continue to voluntarily cooperate with the Committee – and the federal agency with primary jurisdiction over vehicle safety: NHTSA – and is in the process of responding to its recent inquiries regarding vehicle fires.

KMA is also working cooperatively to provide NHTSA with data regarding the safety performance of all Kia vehicles, including concerns about vehicle fires, and is committed to providing this relevant information in a timely manner and to use this information to develop a data driven analysis of Kia vehicle safety.

]]>
<![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 to Help Mother With Quinceañera Venue Refund]]>Wed, 17 Oct 2018 20:32:18 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Delisias+Bazaar+Fort+Worth+101718.jpg

If there's anyone who deserved a birthday party, Alicia Mora said it's her daughter, Ilivet.

She gets good grades, helps around the house and just so happens to be turning 15 soon.

And what better way to celebrate than a quinceañera?

"I had one, and I would like my daughter to have the same feeling that I had when I had my first quinceañera," Mora said.

It's a Hispanic tradition that celebrates a girl becoming a young lady.

Mora and her husband were driving to work when they noticed Delisias Bazaar, a venue in Fort Worth.

They took a tour and were impressed by the space and the price.

So, they signed a contract and paid an $1,800 deposit up front.

"Everything seemed legit," Mora said.

But on Sept. 9, she said a friend sent her a screenshot from the venue's Facebook page: "Delicias Bazaar is now closed and out of service."

Mora said she went to the business and confronted the man she paid, David Kim.

"He just pretty much said he was filing for bankruptcy and that he was sorry and his lawyer would contact me in about a week," she said.

But since then, Mora said she hadn't heard from the lawyer or Kim, and believed her $1,800 was long gone.

"It's horrible, I mean, my husband worked long hours to see it all go away," she said. "It's just hard to turn around and tell your daughter we're out of a venue."

Mora said she had no one left to turn to, so she called NBC 5 Responds to help her get her money back.

NBC 5 Responds reached out to Kim, and he said he was the CEO of the business.

He said the owners had problems with the landlord and had to close up shop. They plan on filing Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

He said he's no longer affiliated with the business, but wanted to help Mora because she's very nice, and a good person.

About a week later, Kim sent NBC 5 Responds an envelope to give to Mora: two checks totaling $600.

Kim said Mora can expect two more checks soon.

"These are happy tears," she said. "I thought all the money was gone. Thank you so much."

That money is a third of what she paid.

Kim said he's paying this money out of his own pocket out of moral obligation.

Mora told us she would use the money to secure another venue for her daughter's Quinceañera.

Click here to contact NBC 5 Responds.



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Drivers Say GM Refuses to Replace Defective Airbags]]>Tue, 16 Oct 2018 18:26:31 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/GM+Takata+airbag+101618.jpg

Frank Llewellyn's 2007 GMC Yukon used to be his pride and joy.

It's 11 years old, but Llewellyn said he got exactly what he paid for and more.

"I planned on keeping it for 10 more years," he said.

But two years ago, Llewellyn said his airbag light came on.

After further research, he learned that his passenger airbag was a part of the Takata recall.

Auto experts said the defective Takata airbags can explode in a crash, sending shrapnel at the driver or even the passenger.

According to the federal government, the airbags have claimed the lives of 15 people, injuring nearly 300 in the U.S.

"I would hate to get killed by the airbag in a fender bender," Llewellyn said.

But no fix is available for customers like him, because General Motors is petitioning the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to exempt many of their vehicles from this recall, claiming the airbags in certain trucks and SUVs do not pose "an unreasonable risk to safety."

Jane Pulliam of Fort Worth said she's going through the same thing with her 2011 Chevy Silverado.

She got a safety recall notice from GM in 2016 that said, "This is based upon Takata's decision that front passenger airbag inflators it supplied to GM are defective."

When she went to her local dealership for a fix, she said she was turned down.

"They said, 'Well, there's really no problem. There's only been 11 incidents.' And I said, 'Only 11, huh?'" Pulliam said.

GM told NBC 5 the inflators in these trucks, which have not ruptured in the field or in ballistic testing, will continue to operate safely for decades, even in the highest temperature and humidity regions.

GM said the inflators are GM-specific, and were engineered for GM trucks and SUVs to make them safer.

According to GM, it's not aware of any injuries or deaths from inflator ruptures in this family of trucks and SUVs.

David Friedman, with the advocacy group Consumers Union, said he's disappointed in the way GM has handled this recall.

"Takata has been clear on this. These airbags are defective," Friedman said.  "Even if their data indicates a lower risk, there should be no risk. Instead of doing right by their customers and just getting those vehicles fixed, their solution has been to petition NHTSA for delay, after delay, after delay."

Friedman said he believed this has gone on long enough and called on the government to take action.

"So far, GM has filed three different petitions with NHTSA to back off and let them not replace them. That's three times NHTSA needs to just say no! Fix those vehicles. Put the safety of your customers first," Friedman explained.

Llewellyn is hoping for a fix soon, as he continues to drive his 2007 GMC Yukon.

"I have to stare at this light on my dash every day and think about that airbag. Do I have one of the ones that's going to implode?" he asked.

NHTSA told NBC 5 it is actively engaged in monitoring carmaker's efforts to remove all recalled Takata inflators from vehicles.

NHTSA said GM's petition remains under consideration, but wouldn't answer how many times they would allow GM to petition their ruling.

So, it's still unclear when, if ever GM's customers will get airbag replacements.



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[AT&T Customers Demand Credits After Area-Wide Outage]]>Tue, 16 Oct 2018 17:48:49 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/att-dallas-hq.jpg

It's been 24 hours since AT&T announced service outages for U-verse customers across North Texas. The outage affected not only residential customers, but businesses who couldn't process credit card payments.

But the big question of the day: what is AT&T going to do to make it up to its customers?

Many people affected by the outage took to social media with the hashtag #ATToutage.

AT&T responded to one customers on Twitter saying, "DM us your account number so we can take a look at our options for credit."

So, here's our advice: If you're looking for a credit on your bill, request one from AT&T.  You can contact AT&T's customer service line at 800-288-2020 or click here.

We've also been hearing from people who believe their service is still down. AT&T said they're equipment should be working, and if it's not, try restarting it.

If you're still having problems, contact AT&T.



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[How to Protect Yourself After Getting Contaminated Gasoline]]>Fri, 12 Oct 2018 17:18:30 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/bad+gas.jpg

Viewers reached out to NBC 5 Responds when their cars stalled after getting gas at an Arlington gas station.

Pumps were shut down and there was no gas being sold at the Chevron station on West Arkansas Lane in Arlington.

Viewers sent us photos after they filled up with gas and couldn't even make it out of the parking lot before their cars started jerking, puttering, and  stalled right on the lot.

NBC 5 Responds went to the gas station and found crews there inspecting and digging into the tanks at the station.

The manager wouldn't speak on camera but told us they had upgraded their pumps the day before the incident in order to start selling diesel fuel.   

They didn't know if something went wrong with the upgrade or if rain had gotten into the system.

One customer told us they needed assurance it would be made right and the clerk at the store wouldn't give them the name of the owner or manager, but told them to come back later.

They received costly bills to flush their engines and didn't know who was accountable.

Here's what you should know.

Print the receipt --- I'm all about saving the environment, but keeping a printed record of what you bought helps in case you get a few blocks away and your car starts malfunctioning.

Have the car examined by a reputable mechanic and ask them to save a sample of the bad gas for proof and testing. Make sure they're noting the bad gas on your invoice.

Contact the Texas Department of Agriculture, they oversee gas stations and will investigate all complaints.

Send documentation of your issue to both the gas station owner and to the oil company that made the gas.

We did that in this case.

Chevron's corporate office told us the station is independently owned  and water may have filtered into its fuel containment system after recent heavy rainfall.

Station managers locally told us they were in contact with the five customers who reported issues to them and their repair bills would all be paid.



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Lyft: Who's Behind the Wheel?]]>Fri, 12 Oct 2018 07:17:16 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/lyft-stolen-account.jpg

There's an underground market that allows people to drive for Lyft, even though the company hasn't vetted them.]]>
<![CDATA[Choice of Power Companies Confusing For Some Texans]]>Thu, 11 Oct 2018 19:28:45 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Power+to+Choose.jpg

There’s so much that makes Texas special. We know energy and brag about our low cost of power but is it as good as we think?

Scott Hundley buys power for a living for major corporations and he says figuring it out at home is even more complicated.

“We would find ourselves spending an hour trying to figure this out and we know how to do it,” said Hundley.

The free market of power on the state’s 'Power to Choose' list, has dozens of plans rates and options.

“So many people get frustrated, throw up their arms and stay with the provider they have now or just pick one and make a bad choice,” said Hundley.

Surveys show 85 percent of us never change our plan and that means we could be paying 30 percent more than those who bother to crunch the numbers.

“It’s a horrible system and it doesn’t seem like anyone in the state is trying to fix it,” said Dallas Morning News Columnist Dave Lieber.

He says the Power to Choose website is confusing and the only ones who win are the power companies or those who can do complex mathematical equations.

There are even full industries out there where people will charge you to crunch the numbers and help you find a plan.

There’s also Greg Craig, CEO of Griddy. It’s a new power company that says pay them $9 a month and they’ll sell you the power at exactly what it costs them.

They say fixed pricing is overrated.

“You do avoid the peak, that’s true, but you’re missing out on the 36 times the price is shoved down toward a penny,” said Craig.

Griddy has its own charts and graphs to back up their claim that fixed pricing ultimately costs you more.

The Public Utility Commission tells us they’ve made changes to help give consumers an easier way to choose. They recently limited the number of plans a company can provide to just five in a attempt to make things simpler.



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Update: More Customers Say They Were Ripped Off By Roofer]]>Thu, 11 Oct 2018 05:59:22 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/5a+p-n5r+lone+peak+roof_KXASITMW_2018-09-24-05-21-23.jpg

A Corinth couple says they hired a roofer and paid him thousands of dollars, but he never showed up to start the job.

Neal and Melissa Scott strive to keep their home in tip-top shape. But when it came to their roof, they put off examining it for quite some time. 

Their insurance company told them a new roof would help lower their premiums, so they were totally on board.

Neal Scott found an old business card from a man who stopped by their house after a storm and he gave him a call.

"Anytime that I texted him, he was quick to reply back," he said. "If I called him, he would answer. Everything was looking great."

Scott said Chase Hansen, the owner of Lone Peak Roofing, even walked them through the insurance process. The couple received a check from their insurance.

They said Hansen told them he'd need $3,500 up front to get materials.

"(He said) the materials would show up here the day before, the workers the next day and then they would do the job," Scott explained.

But on the day they were supposed to start, the owner told them there was a problem.

"He said that he didn’t have the money to pay the workers and they weren’t going to do the work until he paid them," Scott said.

They said the owner told them that he was waiting on a check from another job and would use that money for their job.

"The following week, I hadn’t heard from him. So, I texted him like, what’s the deal?" he said.

The couple said this lasted for months. They said the roofer even offered them a restaurant gift card to hold them over.

When they couldn’t get results, the couple called NBC 5 Responds to step in.

We called the owner three times, and each time, someone hung up the phone.

But not long after our calls, the owner of Lone Peak Roofing left an envelope at the couple’s home -- inside was $1,000.

The couple is happy to have some money back, but want to see the remaining $2,500 as soon as possible.

"This feels to me like textbook consumer fraud. You took our money without the intention of doing the job," Scott said. "[The owner] said, I’m going to prove you wrong. Well, I dare you to prove me wrong."

Hansen posted a complaint response on the Better Business Bureau's website.

Hansen said his salesman stole more than $15,000 in checks and he had about $4,500 in materials stolen from a job site.

He said this has devastated his company, but he has hired new employees and will be paying the couple the rest of their money back next week.

Update

The couple was hopeful, until they said they got a text response from Hansen about their $2500:

“You will not be receiving it, we’re going out of business go tell Samantha.”

When Scott said he’d talk to his lawyer, Hansen said, “It’ll cost you more to pay your lawyer than to recover $1,500.” 

Since our first story aired, we’ve heard from three other customers who say they were ripped off by Lone Peak Roofing as well.

One person wrote, “I'm writing this for my 93-year old father-in-law. Unfortunately, the day before your story aired my father-in-law gave Chase Hansen with lone peak roofers a check for $10,000.” 

Bottom line, Scott and his wife are angry, and they’re warning other consumers to stay far, far away from this roofer.

Here are Samantha Chatman's solutions:

-Be careful before handing over a lot of money up front.

-Check business reviews online

-Ask for references

-If you believe you’ve been ripped off, file a police report.  In some cases, if the authorities can identify a pattern, they may bring criminal charges.



Photo Credit: NBC 5]]>
<![CDATA[Cybersecurity Conference Underway in Plano]]>Wed, 10 Oct 2018 19:10:26 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Cyber+Security+Plano+101018.jpg

The SecureWorld conference offers a chance for companies to share information and strategies on how to combat cybersecurity threats and issues.

The conference is underway in Plano and spokespeople said it's there to combat a growing problem of criminals working together to share resources to breach various computer platforms and steal information.

It's all designed to make the hackers have to work harder to come up with ideas on how to steal information. 

"It's not just one person in a basement on their computer," spokesperson Bruce Sussman said. "They're forming criminal hangs to learn from one another and hack everything we have."

Sussman said companies who compete on various levels are actually working together to come up with better ways to safeguard information.



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Woman With Breast Cancer Calls NBC 5 for Insurance Help]]>Wed, 10 Oct 2018 07:14:14 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/responds-cancer-medication.jpg

Becky Frank, a grandmother of five, used to be full of energy. Fast forward to June, when she learned she had stage 3 breast cancer.

Her daughter, Cherlyn Edwards, was devastated but also determined to get her mom some help. She found an oncologist who specializes in triple negative breast cancer, which is harder to treat.

The doctor recommended adding a drug known as carboplatin to her chemotherapy treatment to help remove the cancer.

"It's an aggressive cancer, and I mean, we absolutely have to have this," Edwards said.

But on the day of treatment, Frank said her nurse came to her with some sobering news: Her insurance denied the carboplatin treatment, and she was sent home.

The following week, Frank and her daughter called the doctor's office again. They said a nurse informed them that nothing had changed. The treatment was still denied.

"I was really angry. It's just crazy to me that her doctor says she needs a certain treatment to help her and the insurance is denying it," said Edwards.

Her daughter was not letting up on this, so she called NBC 5 Responds for help.

We reached out to Frank's insurance company and they reached out to Frank and her daughter that same day.

About a week after we reached out, Frank received a letter in the mail, informing her that her treatment had been approved.

Frank's insurance told NBC 5 that the coverage had been approved before we got involved. Frank and her daughter said that's far from the truth.

But either way, we see this as a problem solved.

Frank received her carboplatin treatment and we're hoping for her speedy recovery.



Photo Credit: Family Photo]]>
<![CDATA[How to Investigate Your Home Inspector]]>Wed, 10 Oct 2018 12:00:40 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Generic+pool1.jpg

Your home is typically the biggest purchase you make in a lifetime and most of us want to be sure we're buying a house that's in good shape.

Home inspectors help in that process, but their report card on your home doesn't come with any guarantees. 

Brett Cooper recently relocated from Houston and bought a home in Plano. Before closing he hired an home inspector to make sure everything was in good working order.

"We went over the report, talked about the pool, and having never owned a pool we inquired, 'Does everything look OK? Is it going to function?' and they said yes," Cooper recalled.

During one of his first dips in the pool, Brett noticed a problem at the skimmer.

"The side plaster is completely missing and on the top it wasn't completely missing, but cracked. I was like, "That's odd." This should have been noticed when you did the pool inspection," he said.

Cooper's dad has experience with pools. He also pointed out issues with the foundation the pool equipment was on and said water didn't appear to be circulating very well. This time, he called out a pool expert and was given thousands of dollars worth of repairs the company said were needed.

Cooper thought the inspector should pay for not catching the problem, but legally no home inspector is under any obligation to be accountable for a problem.

Jim Adams is the president of the Texas Real Estate Commission.

Adams said Texas' standards of practice for inspectors are some of the most strict in the country. But he said there are 3,500 new inspectors in Texas right now and vetting to make sure you get a good one is important.

"We're not perfect. We miss things on occasion," Adams said. "How does an inspector deal with it when he does miss something?"

Cooper had to pay for his repairs out of pocket. We reached out to the inspector, who stood by his report, but agreed to file a claim with his insurance company to see if they find fault.

Cooper waits with a little uncertainty in his mind about the whole inspection process.

The Home Inspectors Association recommends not just taking your realtor's word, but researching your inspector by verifying their license, looking at their education and any disciplinary reports or complaints against them.

You can find all three on the Texas Real Estate Council's website.

If your loan officer doesn't require an inspection, you can also call out people like HVAC companies, roofers and pool builders individually to look at all the items.

It's more complicated, but you're hopefully getting someone who is a bit more of a specialist to let you know if there's a problem lurking in your home.



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Switching TV or Internet Providers? Make Sure You Know Exactly What You're Getting]]>Mon, 08 Oct 2018 18:11:28 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/coaxial+cable.jpg

Whether it’s internet, cable, or cellphones companies are offering lot of incentives to convince you to switch to them.

There’s been several complaints into NBC 5 Responds recently about being promised a DVR as part of a new deal on TV service. But at installation they were told the company was all out and didn’t know when they’d get more.

One woman says her internet service was set up, but she waited three months for TV service even though she was paying for it each month.

She was promised a $250 gift card for signing up, but says the one she was actually sent just $50.

How do you avoid this? When making deals like this ask for them in writing.

Tell the agent you’re happy to sign up for new service or switch but you want all the promises and all the details of your bills sent to you in an email before you agree.

If the agent says that can’t be done --- ask for a supervisor who can help --- or visit a local customer service center and ask for the information spelled out before you sign on the dotted line.



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Help May Be on the Way to End Scam Robocalls]]>Mon, 08 Oct 2018 07:48:53 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/spam-irs-robocall.PNG

As unwanted calls continue to proliferate, many mobile phone users have simply stopped answering the phone. But new technology is on the horizon that could sharply cut the number of scam and spam calls we all receive daily.

Fraudulent calls — frequently originating overseas — have spiked sharply since 2017. In a study published this month, tech analyst First Orion projected by next year, nearly half of all calls to mobile phones will be scam calls. Of those, First Orion researchers say more than 90 percent will use caller ID "spoofing" — displaying a fake call-back number — to trick potential targets.

Robocall Warning in the Bay Area

NBC Bay Area wanted to know, why is the problem of spam calls getting worse? How do fraudulent callers spoof caller ID? Why don't phone companies simply shut them down? And, what is the government doing to stop scammers? The answers we found are complicated, but there's also hope of a solution on the horizon.

An explosion of unwanted calls

Most of the calls from scammers and fraudsters are made with auto-dialers, and are known as "robocalls." Irvine-based tech firm YouMail estimates 4.2 billion robocalls were placed nationwide last month, amounting to about 13 calls per phone user.

Ethan Garr, Vice President of anti-spam calling firm TelTech, tells NBC Bay Area the numbers are staggering.

"Over 3,000 calls are being made every second to Americans," Garr said.

TelTech makes an app called RoboKiller. The company was awarded a $25,000 prize from the U.S. Federal Trade Commission for its spam call-fighting technology.

Garr tells NBC Bay Area the surge in caller ID spoofing by spam callers has conditioned most of us to simply stop answering our phones.

"I would guess 40 percent of the calls you get, you can trust the caller ID," he said.

We asked Garr how scammers spoof caller ID. He said it's pretty easy. TelTech also makes SpoofCard, an app that lets any mobile phone user choose any number to show up on a call recipient's caller ID. Garr says it's pretty simple, because caller ID is a decades-old technology.

"It was an add-on into the phone system," Garr said. "It wasn't something that was invented so people could manipulate it or change it. It was a way for people to see who was calling, but it got co-opted over time."

Unfortunately, scammers were among those doing the co-opting of caller ID.

The robocall problem - it's complicated

For years, YouMail has tracked the rapid rise in computer-dialed phone calls. It offers apps to help phone users block them. CEO Alex Quilici says the reluctance of most people to stop answering unknown calls has only made scammers more determined.

"They're clever, and they want to get through, so they're picking random numbers to call," Quilici said. "People are not answering the calls any more, if they can help it. They just assume, 'This is a number I've never seen before; I'm not going to pick up the phone.' So the bad guys try to call more and more numbers, to try to get through. It's a little bit of a death spiral for the phone network."

So, why can't the U.S. government simply ban all robocalls?

Eric Troutman, an attorney with Womble Bond Dickinson, tells us it's not that simple.

"We need to have a better definition of what a 'robocall' is," Troutman said. "When I think about what a robocall is, I think a scam, pre-recorded call; generally, random-fired, and probably by some bad actor overseas someplace. You might think that a reminder call to go pick up your pills at the pharmacy is a robocall."

Troutman represents clients such as banks that auto-dial fraud alerts, and pharmacies that use robocalls to inform patients of prescription refills. He welcomes tougher federal laws for scammers, but not a robocall ban.

"What is it that we're actually trying to prevent?" Troutman said. "Is it that we're trying to prevent American businesses from contacting their customers with account-specific information that their customer needs? I don't think so."

Troutman, who also writes for and edits telecom law website TCPAland.com, is a critic of the Telecommunications Consumer Protection Act, or TCPA. He says the 1991 law — written long before widespread mobile phone and internet use — is badly in need of replacement.

"Congress needs to focus on scammers," Troutman said. "When we've got a lot of noise out there, trying to shift the focus from bad actors to legitimate American businesses, you're going to get a lot of push-back when it comes time to draft that statute."

Technological impediments and solutions

The other major challenge to blocking scam calls is the aging, sprawling national telephone system. Alex Quilici with YouMail told us that makes any effort to stop spam callers a daunting task.

"There are 3,000 [phone] carriers in the U.S.," Quilici said. "There are multiple billions of phone calls every day. To roll out something like that is a pretty massive undertaking."

The good news is the major players in telecommunications are trying. Right now, a consortium of technology engineers, phone service providers, and the U.S. Federal Communications Commission are developing a sweeping update to caller ID. Known by the acronyms STIR and SHAKEN, the caller ID authentication standards will make it much more difficult for spam calls to get through.

Here's how it might work: calls from someone using a verified phone line, approved by a certification authority, could show up on your phone screen with something like a green checkmark. That way, you'll know the caller ID can be trusted.

Conversely, calls that come in through scammers' preferred routes, such as unverified overseas phone services, will be flagged. You might see a red "X" or a "caller not verified" message with their caller ID. Or, your mobile carrier might be able to block all such calls before they get to your phone.

The new caller ID authentication standards could be rolling out to our phones as early as next year. While the measures should reduce the number of unwanted calls we get, it won't stop them altogether. Ethan Garr with TelTech says we can count on scammers' persistence and greed.

"They hate us," Garr said. "They don't care about us. They don't think of us as humans. They want to get to us. They want to steal from us."



Photo Credit: KNBC-TV]]>
<![CDATA[Virtual Reality Goggles Gaining Popularity For More Than Just Gamers]]>Fri, 05 Oct 2018 17:17:31 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/virtual+reality+goggles.jpg

Lets face it, many of us daydream about slipping away somewhere serene to get away from it all. While we can’t hop a flight to the beach whenever we want, virtual reality is making it easier to jump into another world

You may think gaming is the best use for virtual reality goggles, but Aaron Baker with Samsung says there’s so many more uses.

“There are a lot of use cases outside of gaming and things people think of with VR,” said Baker.

Samsung makes Gear VR. They are goggles that you simply snap your Samsung cellphone in and with a few pushes of a button you’re in a whole new world.

I found a nice lake in the mountains to meditate.

There’s another program that lets you face your fears. There’s a bedroom with scary clowns or monsters trying to get you.

You’re immersed inside a room with your big fears. You’re hearing things and it feels like it’s coming from behind you.

It’s easy to forget you’re not really inside the virtual world.

There’s several different styles and brands of virtual reality goggles, working with different types of phones. Prices range anywhere from $20 to $200.



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[How Scammers Trick Potential Renters]]>Thu, 04 Oct 2018 06:14:00 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/phantom-rental-responds.jpg

Rent prices increased nationwide this past year and so did the number of scammers trying to leverage the hopes of potential renters.

While most listings are legitimate, rental scams are real and on the rise. Just ask Kevin Stein, who turned to Craigslist for help finding a place to live in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

“I found a beautiful apartment, beautiful pictures really good rent in a really good part of town," he said. 

And cheap!

So Stein responded to the ad by email. The alleged owner then asked him to send first month’s rent plus a security deposit — $2,000 in all — promising to mail the keys in return.

"He gave me a story; he was caring for his elderly father in Chicago. So, he had the keys with him," Stein explained.

A landlord out of state asking for money before meeting or signing a lease, plus a warning on Craigslist: signs that made Stein suspicious.

That's when he reached out to the NBC Responds team in Philadelphia. They looked up the street address, found one the owners of the building, and showed him the ad.

“Oh my goodness. There’s nothing like that in this building. There’s nothing like that in this building,” he said.

That's because the picture is actually of a building in Chicago. A quick Google image search shows the condo isn’t in Philadelphia at all.

It happens more than most consumers realize. A recent survey from real estate website "apartment list" shows many, like Stein, have encountered a suspicious listing in their hunt for housing.

"It's pretty sad to know people are preying on people who are just trying to move to a new city," he said.

His housing hunt is back on. Stein reported the ad to Craigslist and it has since been removed.

We reached out to Craigslist, but so far haven't heard back. Stein lost time, but no money. Sadly, many other potential renters we've heard from did bite and did send money orders.

The standard policy for reputable landlords? Meet with a tenant, show the property and do a background check before any money changes hands.



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Service Techs Suggest Repairs Couple Felt Weren't Necessary]]>Tue, 02 Oct 2018 18:36:08 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Home+Warranty+Water+Heater.jpg

A pipe breaks in a Garland family’s home and they go through several different plumbers, all with a different story of what’s wrong with their house.

All the repairs were costly, but the family just wasn’t buying it.

Mark and Laura Grenier had a leak in a pipe right behind their hot water heater.

Their home warranty company sent out a plumber who easily made the repair.

Days later, a repair man came to close up the wall the pipe was in and discovered a whole new leak.

They called the home warranty company back and this time a new plumber was sent out, but this plumber claimed it was impossible to get to that pipe without removing the hot water heater.

In order to put it back they would have to pay for costly repairs to get the water heater up to code.

"According to the master plumber who saw it, I said 'what do you see on our hot water that’s against code?' He said nothing," said Mark Grenier.

The home warranty company sent out yet another company, this one said the water heater didn’t need to be moved but said the water pressure coming into their home was way too high and would need a costly regulator to bring it down to acceptable levels.

"I said that’s just fantastic, but I’m telling you right now I have a hard time believing anything your folks are saying to me," said Laura Grenier.

Out of fear their second leak was about to blow the pipe the couple paid out of pocket to have their own plumber come out.

He could access the pipe with no issue, saw no code violations on the hot water heater, and says the pressure coming into the house was not off the charts.

He repaired the whole thing in a matter of hours for just over $200.

It’s money they felt they shouldn’t have to pay with coverage from a home warranty.

NBC 5 reached out to the company and they told us "in order to provide our customers with affordable home warranties, our coverage is limited to the terms of our contract."

We explained the matter should have been covered under the warranty and pointed it out to them.

Less than a half hour later Laura and Mark got a phone call refunding the $200 they had spent out of pocket.



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[DART Brochure Typo Causes Confusion Over Fare Discount]]>Tue, 02 Oct 2018 07:07:43 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/dart-pass-100218.jpg

Some people choose to ride the bus. Jason Jones doesn't really have a choice.

"Ya know, money's tight, especially when you're low income," he said.

Last month, Jones, of South Dallas, was looking over Dallas Area Rapid Transit's fare brochure when he noticed a section that may have been the break he needed.

According to the brochure, participants in the Lone Star Card or TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) programs qualify for reduced fare on monthly passes.

Jones has a Lone Star Card, which helps him pay for food. So, instead of paying $96 for a monthly pass, Jones would only have to pay $48.

"I mean, that's a big savings," said Jones.

He went to the Akard station in Dallas to get his reduced pass. Jones said he even showed the attendant the brochure to confirm the price.

"Their response was, 'I'm sorry, but that's a misprint,'" he explained.

He was told that the brochure should have read "Participants in the Lone Star Card and TANF programs qualify, not "or."

But Jones noticed another problem: the reduced fare line said, "Lone Star/TANF."

"That (slash) spoke directly to the fact that this is a program that benefits either or," said Jones.

Jones said he called DART's customer service line and they confirmed the brochure should have said and, not or. He said he asked if they could honor what was printed, but he was told no.

"At this point, I felt like the little guy. I figured i could reach out to you guys," Jones explained.

We reached out to DART about the brochure and a spokesperson quickly responded:

"We were unaware of the mistake in our brochure until it was brought to our attention. We will fix that…While there may be some brochures still in circulation, we are continuing to remove them and will replace them with the updated information."

"Thirty minutes from the time you responded to me, I get a phone call with DART," he said.

That same day, DART agreed to sell Jones a pass at the discounted price, which means a cheaper ride for all of October.

"I'm very grateful for you guys. You guys really came through for me," Jones said. 

DART said customers are more than welcome to bring the brochure to the station and they will honor what is printed for one month as a gesture of goodwill.

We also informed DART that its website only includes the Lone Star program for the monthly discount and leaves out the TANF program.

DART said they'll get it fixed.

ONLINE: More information on DART fares



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[New Medicare Cards Are in the Mail and Crooks Are on the Job]]>Mon, 01 Oct 2018 17:07:16 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/medicare-card.JPG

New Medicare cards are in the mail to seniors across Texas. The cards are being replaced to remove social security numbers and protect the identity of seniors. But there are already crooks out there using the new cards as a way to pull a fast one on seniors.

The big difference is that your social security number has been removed and replaced with this new series of numbers and letters that’s how doctors will identify you.

Congress ordered this change to help provide some identity protection for seniors.

Now crooks are trying one more thing to get their hands on your information.

Calls are coming in where a stranger tells you that new medicare cards are on the way, but you'll need to give personal information like your social security number to activate it.

“Medicare will not do that. They will not contact you by phone. They will not contact you via email. They have all the information," said Maureen McIntyre, an advocate for senior citizens.

Medicare recipients don’t have to do anything to get these new cards. They’re being mailed automatically by the Social Security Administration and they tell NBC 5 Responds those cards are starting to be mailed in Texas right now.

Once you get your card, shred or tear up the old one. It’s your best protection to make sure it doesn’t wind up in the wrong hands.

CLICK HERE for more information to help you prepare for the change on the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services website.

]]>
<![CDATA[Scheme Takes Aim at Kroger, Target, Walmart Shoppers]]>Mon, 01 Oct 2018 08:16:35 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/430a+v-mystery+shopper_KXASIWBK_2018-10-01-05-50-46.jpg

It’s a scheme that’s claiming victims across the country.

We’ve heard from a teacher, a retiree and a stay at home mom looking for a side job.

They thought they were signing up for mystery shopping jobs, but ended up losing hundreds of dollars.

Here’s how people are getting tricked according to the Federal Trade Commission:

You get a check in the mail with a job offer as a secret shopper.  You deposit the check and see the funds in your account a few days later, and the bank even tells you the check has cleared.

Now you’re off to the store you’ve been asked to shop at and report back on.

Your first assignment: buy gift cards.

You’re instructed to send pictures of the cards or to give the numbers on the cards.

Fast forward days or weeks to the unhappy ending. The bank finds out the check you deposited is a fake, which means you’re on the hook for all that money.

This is exactly what happened to a teacher in Plano. But a consumer in Euless didn’t see that story and wasn’t familiar with the scheme.

So when he got an email about a secret shopper assignment at Kroger, he was pretty excited.

A few days later, he got a letter in the mail asking him to evaluate not just Kroger, but also Walmart and Target as a bonus.

The packet also included a check for $1,900.

He was to deposit the check, buy $1,550 worth of gift cards and keep the rest of the money as his payment.

Next, he was to evaluate each store he visited, rate the customer service and send pictures of the back of each gift card.

Something just didn’t feel right, so he called us to find out if this assignment was legitimate or a set up.

You may be sitting at home thinking, how could anyone come close to falling for this.

It's happening enough for the Federal Trade Commission and the Better Business Bureau to issue warnings to the public about it.

So, if you ever get an email or letter like this, report it or throw it away.

Kroger told us they have their own internal shopping program and would never solicit any shopping partner in this fashion.

Target said this is not a legitimate program.

We haven’t heard back from Walmart.

For legitimate mystery shopping jobs, click here:



Photo Credit: NBC 5]]>
<![CDATA[2/3 of Child Car Seats Used Improperly: TxDOT]]>Fri, 28 Sep 2018 07:12:57 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/6a+tz4+v-txdot+car+seat_KXASIVM6_2018-09-28-05-41-28.jpg

As part of its September "Save Me with a Seat" campaign, the Texas Department of Transportation is encouraging parents to sign up for a free child safety seat check-up at any of its 25 district offices located throughout the state.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has found that 2 out of 3 safety seats are not used correctly.

According to NHTSA, child safety seats in passenger cars reduce the risk of fatal injury by 71 percent for infants and by 54 percent for toddlers. 

TxDOT’s free safety seat inspections are available weekdays throughout the year and take about 20 to 30 minutes. 

Online:



Photo Credit: NBC 5]]>
<![CDATA[Gas Station Customers Angry About 'Water in Fuel']]>Wed, 26 Sep 2018 10:19:57 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/5a+tz4-s-responds+tease_KXASIURL_2018-09-26-05-48-21.jpg

We've heard from several drivers who filled up at a local RaceTrac gas station. Not long after, they said their cars broke down on the side of the road.

Robert Reith said he was running low on gas and wanted to fill up for the week.

On Sunday, he said he stopped by the RaceTrac on 1550 S. Morgan Street in Granbury, off State Highway 144, and got premium gas for his Porsche.

"I drove about three miles and the car started backfiring, stuttering, doing all kinds of crazy things," he said. "It barely ran."

Reith said he managed to drive to a nearby auto parts shop, where he met four other drivers who were complaining about their cars.

"I just yelled out, 'Did everyone get gas at RaceTrac?' and they all said yes," Reith explained.

He said they returned to the RaceTrac as a group to find out what was wrong with the fuel.

"The manager on duty, I asked for her, she took down all our information and said she'd call me back. She never did," Reith said.

We found other consumers who said they stopped by that same RaceTrac on Sunday that were voicing their concerns on Facebook.

One woman told us, "Our tank was on empty and hubby got four gallons of gas last night, late, before coming home. Got in the car this morning and he couldn't keep it running."

Another driver wrote, "Water in gas at RaceTrac on 144. We purchased premium fuel on pump 9 this morning....Car running like crap."

Reith said he took his Porsche in to a mechanic and was told the problem was definitely water in his fuel tank.

He said he was sent home with a sample as they worked on the car.

Reith said he wonders if recent storms had anything to do with it.

In a statement, RaceTrac told NBC 5 Responds that they were made aware of an issue with the premium fuel at the location in question on Monday, and as soon as they learned of the issue, access to the fuel pumps was discontinued and RaceTrac teams began working to have the fuel drained and replaced.

RaceTrac would not confirm if water was found in their fuel tanks or if the issue was related to the heavy rain and flash flooding.

The company said, "We sincerely apologize for the inconvenience this may have caused our guests and plan to make this right."

Reith said he plans on sending his sample to RaceTrac and hopes the company will addresses its customer's repairs quickly.

"They wouldn't tow my car. They wouldn't pay for me. I had to do it all by myself," he said.

The Texas Department of Agriculture oversees gas stations.

The TDA said that gas station owners have a responsibility to ensure fuel quality at all times and anyone with a fuel complaint is encouraged to report it.

RaceTrac also encourages customers with concerns to contact them from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. at 1-888-636-5589.

Reith said he is in touch with RaceTrac's corporate office. We'll keep you posted on their findings.



Photo Credit: NBC 5]]>
<![CDATA[Cell Carrier Switch Didn't Go Smoothly; NBC 5 Responds]]>Tue, 25 Sep 2018 16:56:05 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/211*120/cell+phone9.jpg

Competition is growing with the amount of people looking to provide you service for your smartphone.

Companies are offering lot of incentives to convince you to switch to them but what happens when they don’t live up to their promises?

John reached out to us after walking into a cellphone store and being convinced to switch to a new provider.

He was told his bill would go down – and they would pay all the fees his old company would charge to make the change.

But he never got that payment. He talked to people in the store and customer service for weeks.

He’s not the only one, we’ve had three other people contact NBC 5 Responds in the past two weeks with the exact same problem.

All the companies we talked to claimed it was a miscommunication, error, or oversight and it shouldn’t have happened.

When NBC5 Responds got involved the problem was solved and the bills were paid as promised.

If switching cell carriers, go into the new store with copies of your current bill.

Call your current company and ask for what your final payment will be, and bring that amount to the new company.

Tell them up front what they will have to pay and ask for a specific date when it will be paid and who to contact at corporate if not.

Each time contacts in the store mysteriously disappeared.

You can also contact NBC 5 Responds. 



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Problem Solved: Woman Gets Money Back After Company Goes MIA]]>Tue, 25 Sep 2018 08:38:17 -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.

We didn't want Mata's story to end this way.

So we contacted her bank, Bank of America, to see if there was anything they could do. The bank said it would take them some time to investigate.

Three months after we first heard from Mata, she said she got a call from the Bank of America informing her that the $1,700 she paid for the extended warranty was going back into her account.

Problem Solved.

Banks typically don't reimburse customers for purchases gone wrong…so we are very happy that bank of america was able to help stephanie out.

Banks typically don't reimburse customers for purchases gone wrong, so we are very happy that Bank of America was able to help Mata out.

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[Car Rental Companies Charge Customers for Disputed Damages]]>Mon, 24 Sep 2018 17:18:40 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Rental+Car+092418.jpg

Like many of us, Erica Lee would jump through a lot of hoops for her grandmother.

Her grandmother lives in the southeastern corner of Colorado.

The fastest way there is to fly to Amarillo, then rent a car and drive about two and a half hours north.

She made the trip recently from her grandma's 80th birthday party.

"It's such a small airport there's usually one person working the counters there and they don't come out to view the car with me," Lee said. 

A few weeks after her trip to her grandmother's home, she received a letter in the mail from the rental car company she used -- Enterprise.

It said the car Erica rented was damaged when she returned it.

A manager later called and revealed nearly $1,300 in hail damage they said Erica had to pay.

"He said there had been some hail reports in Amarillo during your rental period and I told him well that's great because I wasn't in Amarillo," Lee said.

National hail reports found online showed hail in Amarillo during her rental as well as the night after Erica returned the car.

But no hail reports on the farm three hours north, where Erica was with her grandma opening birthday gifts.

"It seemed like no matter what evidence I gave them they weren't listening," Lee said.

Lee's story is much like Chuck Hampton's. We spoke to him last year.

He flew to Colorado, rented a car, hit the slopes and returned the car to a small airport in Montrose, where no one checked the car when he turned it in.

"When I got home to Dallas, there was a voicemail on my phone from the manager of the Montrose Airport Alamo Rent-a-Car saying, 'You returned this car with a cracked windshield, and we're going to have to charge you for that," Hampton recalled.

Hampton had snapped pictures of his car, on a hunch, and they show the windshield was fine.

Hampton rented from Alamo, Lee from Enterprise. Both car rental agencies have the same parent company.

A spokeswoman for both companies told us, "Customers are financially responsible for any damage or theft that occurs during a rental transaction regardless of fault or negligence." She also pointed out with 70 million rentals a year, there would be disagreements.

But you couldn't disagree with Hampton who had proof his windshield was intact when he returned it.

They called that a "miscommunication" and credited back his $500.

As for Lee, after NBC 5 Responds reached out, they agreed not to hold her accountable for the bill as a gesture of goodwill.

"The biggest thing off my mind is not having to worry about this going to claims or getting something dinged on my credit score," Lee said. "For any rental or any kind of thing where you're signing a contract, it's good to be aware."

Lee said she's following Hampton's lead now and will take not just pictures, but video every time she returns a rental car. She said she will do it whether there's a agent looking over it or not.



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Law Could Give More Protection Over Credit Report Security]]>Fri, 21 Sep 2018 17:09:11 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Final_Day_to_Register_for_Free_Equifax_ID_Protection.jpg

Last year's Equifax data breach led to many fears over American's credit reports being up for grabs.

The one fix made available to help protect you was a credit freeze.

"A credit freeze is like a super lock on your credit that prevents any of the bad guys from getting in," said Tedd Rossman of creditcards.com

But a leading research company says most of us aren't freezing our credit reports. Data shows only 5 percent of Americans actually bothered to do it. 

"It's mostly faded from the headlines and while they're important changes, they're not the wholesale change we thought would take place," said Rossman.

A new law hopes to help encourage others to use the freeze by eliminating all fees associated freezing your account.

You still have to contact all three credit bureaus though to order a freeze.

]]>
<![CDATA[Problem Solved: NBC 5 Helps Couple Get Hot Tub Refund]]>Fri, 21 Sep 2018 05:58:24 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/consumer-responds-hot-tu+b.jpg

Kathy Meringdol had neck and back surgery not too long ago and was hoping a hot tub would help alleviate the pain. But instead, she said she ended up with "a piece of crap."

Meringdol said the tub was missing a plug, three jets and an outside panel, so they haven’t been able to use it.

"It’s a reminder every time I look at it," she said.

The Truongs said they can relate.

They’ve dealt with leaks, a broken control panel and most recently, problems with the filter housing in their hot tub. The mosquitoes may be enjoying it, but the Truongs are not.

Both couples blamed David, the owner of Advanced Services. They said he was unresponsive and full of excuses.

When they couldn’t get their money back, they called NBC 5 Responds to step in.

When we first heard from David, he said he was responding to both couples. He said the Truongs had tampered with their hot tub and the Meringdols were just going through buyer’s remorse. But David said he’d take care of it, offering the Truongs a full fix and the Meringdols a full refund.

When our first story aired, the Meringdols didn’t see that money; they thought it was a lost cause.

But later that day, the owner arrived at their doorstep with an envelope.

Enclosed: $1,700.

"I’m thankful to NBC because y’all did an amazing job and he’s picking up the hot tub today," said Kathy Meringdol.

If you thought that was good news, the owner said he will give the Truongs their money back, too, in about 10 business days.

The owner said he can’t predict when a hot tub is going to break down, and the delays were due to the rain. He said this whole thing has been blown out of proportion and he never had a problem giving them their money back.

But either way, we see this as a problem solved.

]]>
<![CDATA[Snoring Gadget Costs More to Return Than Buy]]>Thu, 20 Sep 2018 05:54:55 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/4P+PKG+SNORING+GADGET+-+00024607_33657277.jpg

Kim Allyn said she's tried virtually everything to stop snoring: pills, nasal strips, throat sprays — nothing worked.

So, when she saw an online ad for a new anti-snoring mouthpiece made by SnoreQuiet, promising guaranteed results and an "over 90% success rate," Allyn didn't think twice, paying $45 for two.

Within the first five minutes of trying it, she said it was a major fail.

"All I do is whistle and drool. How am I supposed to sleep like this? I'll drown," she said.

So, Allyn went back to SnoreQuiet's website, where she bought the product, and clicked on its refund policy. That's where it was all spelled out: "All returns are subject to a $25 environmental waste disposal fee per device."

And consumers must pay international shipping charges "to our return center located in Germany."

Fifty dollars for waste disposal for two devices, plus shipping to Germany on a package that arrived from Florida. It’s a return policy Allyn said did not add up:

"So, what cost me $45 to get, It's going to end up costing me $65 to get rid of, to return, so there is no refund coming back," Allyn explained.

Allyn is not the only one complaining. NBC 5 Responds found consumers lashing out online about SnoreQuiet's return policy:

"...Much to my dismay, they are going to charge me a $25 environmental fee for disposing of the device," Allyn said. "This is simply an excuse to not give a refund."

The Better Business Bureau agrees but has not taken any action against the company. "This is not typical. This is something way off the top," the BBB in Chicago said.

It’s a questionable business model, the BBB said, that banks on consumers not reading the refund policy until it's too late.

For now, the Allyn said rather than returning, she's going to re-purpose the devices themselves.

In its return policy, the makers of SnoreQuiet claim customers can't just return the product because illnesses such as measles, tuberculosis or malaria could be transmitted in the box. An infectious disease specialist told our partners at NBC Chicago that they found the policy ridiculous.

The maker of SnoreQuiet has not responded to our requests for comment.



Photo Credit: NBC Chicago]]>
<![CDATA[Woman Charged for Tolls on a Car She Doesn't Own]]>Wed, 19 Sep 2018 07:14:08 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/6a+tz3+sv-ntta+toll+hel_KXASIRUD_2018-09-19-06-07-40.jpg

No one likes paying for tolls in Texas, but a woman in Weatherford said she was very angry after getting billed for a car she doesn’t even own anymore.

Brenda Balaski inherited a car from one of her close friends, but it was one she really didn’t need.

So in May, she decided to sell it to an online buyer.

"It was sold on May 31. It was no longer in my possession," she said.

Balaski thought it was a done deal. That’s until she started getting pink bills in the mail from the North Texas Tollway Authority. 

"The NTTA kept sending me bills and they were taking money from my bank account," Balaski said.

She eventually learned that the owner, who she sold the car to, never registered the vehicle in his name.

Balaski said she filled out a vehicle transfer form with the Texas DMV, which is how you notify the DMV that you have sold your vehicle to remove liability.

She then sent a DMV document over to NTTA.

"But even after I sent them that, they hit my bank account like three or four more times," she explained.

Balaski said she talked to an NTTA  representative, who acknowledged the problem and told her they’d credit her account.

But it didn’t take long for her to get another bill from NTTA on a car that’s no longer hers.

"I’m like, no. It’s unacceptable! That ain’t happening," she said. “Do I need to get a lawyer or what?”

Forget a lawyer. 

Balaski realized she had a team on her side that specializes in solving problems.  She called NBC 5 Responds

"Two minutes later and you call me, and I was like, 'Oh god! You really do work quick,'" she said.

We got in touch with NTTA and the company quickly responded.

NTTA says, “We should have noted that the customer sold the vehicle... She is right and we are issuing a credit to her account. We apologize for the inconvenience and will use this as a training situation so we can better serve our customers in the future.”

That $147 is going back into Balaski's account.

"You guys like getting things done. You go for the little person," she said.  "When it doesn’t seem like there’s any way, it’s like you fight for us."

Even though her case is closed, there are some things we can learn from her especially if you’re selling a car.

If you plan on selling your car, here are Samantha Chatman's Solutions:

-Go to the DMV with the buyer. That way you can make sure the title is transferred from your name to the new owner.

-You’ll also want to fill out a bill of sale and a release of liability form.

-For more information, click here.



Photo Credit: NBC 5]]>
<![CDATA[Make Sure 'Collection Companies' Aren't Making Up Your Debt]]>Tue, 18 Sep 2018 15:24:20 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/214*120/cell+phones+generic.JPG

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She's not the only one.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Consumers Warn of 'Dishonest' Hot Tub Company]]>Tue, 18 Sep 2018 08:00:55 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/responds-hot-tub-troubles.jpg

Two North Texas couples were excited to take a dip into their newly purchased hot tubs, but it didn’t take them long to realize their tubs had major problems.

Lon and Heather Truong recently built a back patio and thought a hot tub would be the perfect addition. They looked up hot tub companies online and came across Advanced Services.

They met the owner, David, at his warehouse and selected a refurbished hot tub for just under $2,800. They said he told them it was as good as new.

The receipt says all are sales final, but there’s also a 90 day warranty, so they felt good about their purchase. But on delivery day, they said the company was a no show.

"We were going back and forth through text saying, 'we're waiting on a part, we're waiting on a part,'" said Heather.

The tub eventually came, but when they filled it up, they said it started leaking. They called the owner to get a tech out to fix it.

"It was like pulling teeth," said Lon. "Calling him or texting him and he would come up with excuses on why they can't come out."

They said a tech eventually came out to fix the leak twice, but each time the leak came back. That wasn’t the only problem. The control panel stopped working, too. The couple said the owner refused to offer a refund and stopped returning their calls.

The Truongs are not alone.

Kathy Meringdol had neck and back surgery not too long ago and was hoping the hot tub would alleviate the pain. But like the Truongs, she said she got a lemon. She and her husband said the tub was missing a plug, three jets and an outside panel, so they haven’t been able to use it.

The owner told them he’d give them their money back, but he never showed.

Advanced Services, in Lancaster, has an F rating with the Better Business Bureau and several complaints on Google Reviews. After seeing this online, both couples called NBC 5 Responds, hoping that we could help.

David told us he did stay in contact with both couples, and any delayed responses were because he was out of town and dealing with a death in the family.

He said the Meringdols are just going through buyer’s remorse, but said he would give them there money back as a courtesy.

As for the Truongs, he said they tampered with the control panel and shorted it out, but parts were on the way, and he’d be willing to fix it.

After we got involved, he sent a tech to the Truong's house. But, the couple tells me they're now dealing with an issue with the filter housing.

As for the Meringdol couple, they said they have yet to see the owner or the refund that he promised.

We asked the owner about those bad reviews online. He told us he’s been in business for 18 years, and some people are jumping on the bandwagon and want to ride it out.



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[NBC 5 Responds After Woman Loses Money in Fake Check Scheme]]>Mon, 17 Sep 2018 17:12:45 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Fake+Check+Scheme+091718.jpg

Pamela Duncan told reporters how she got a call saying she won the lotto.

She was sent a check with instructions to deposit it and wire the money back to cover fees and taxes.

It wasn't the lotto, she lost $5,000.

"Of course I was just devastated, I thought, 'OK, what am I going to do?'" she said.

Pamela is a senior, retired and lives in a home so small in Italy we had to sit outside to talk to her comfortably.

She lives off her social security check. The bank told Pamela her account was $5,000 in the red and every dollar she got from the government would go to pay the bank back -- for months.

"I have a car payment, insurance, and rent," is what she told her bank.

She said the manager told her every penny would be taken until the money was paid back.

She said she offered to pay in installments, but was told no. She borrowed money from a church and asked for extensions on her rent; still she was worried she might be out on the street.

We walked out of the news conference where Pamela shared her story and immediately called her bank.

We knew the bank would want to recoup the money lost, but asked it to reconsider Pamela's request to pay it back over time.

After all, this is a senior in a small town who just wanted to do business at her local bank and have money to survive.

We laid out her case and the bank agreed they could be more flexible in allowing Pamela to pay back $50 a month until the bill is paid off.

"Well I certainly appreciate it, because I had no idea that anything like that would be happening, so it was such a relief," she said.

Banks would go out of business if they gave money back every time someone is tricked out of their money.

That's how much this is happening. The Better Business bureau announced this month it is working with banks to try to come up with a better way to spot this stuff before it gets out of control.



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Get Used to Paying $50K for Pickup Trucks: Report]]>Fri, 14 Sep 2018 17:33:48 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/pickup-truck.jpg

New reports state that the average price of a pickup truck will soon cross $50,000 in the United States.]]>
<![CDATA[Get a Yellow Envelope? Don't Throw It Away]]>Fri, 14 Sep 2018 08:26:26 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/RIP+Medical+Debt.jpg

Craig Antico has seen it happen to many families: They say yes to medical treatment. Next, they're in a massive amount of debt.

"You're one illness away, or accident away, from financial ruin in this country," said Antico.

Antico worked in the debt collection industry. 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 that file of bills.

"I can buy debt for $10, $1,000 of debt for 10 bucks. I can buy a million dollars of debt for $10,000," explained Antico.

He would them get you to pay the full or some slightly discounted amount, and he got to keep the difference.

Antico decided it was time for a change: from a business to a charity. 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.

In February, NBC Owned Television Station donated enough money to abolish more than $2 million of debt for 902 people in North Texas.

Bobbie Carter, a cancer survivor, was one of them.

"I said, 'that's a yellow envelope!' I said, 'no, that's not it — oh glory to God!'"

More letters like the one Bobbie received were mailed this week. They're being delivered Thursday and Friday, so watch out for them.

Please understand, NBC 5 or RIP Medical Debt has no way of buying bills for one person.

Hospitals choose which bills they want to sell, and they are sold in bulk in one large pack. There is no way to buy the debt of one particular patient.

If you would like to help donate, you can do so HERE.

ONLINE: How to donate



Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com]]>
<![CDATA[HOA Allows Man to Sell Home After Intense Roof Dispute]]>Thu, 13 Sep 2018 10:54:55 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/dfw-hoa-roof-responds.jpg

When we first sat down with Mike Luna, he was nearly in tears.

After a hail storm, he picked out gray shingles for his Fort Worth home.

But not long after, he got a notice in the mail.

According to the HOA, he didn't get approval to repair his roof.

The second problem was the color gray.

"It's not green. It's not blue, it's not red," said Luna.

Luna pointed out major contradictions in the HOA's bylaws.

In one section, it says you need prior approval for home alterations.

But in another section, it says for roof materials, like shingles, permission is "encouraged, but not required…"

As for the color, the HOA allows weatherwood or an earth tone color, which Luna thought he had.

"Grey is considered an earth tone color," he said.

Luna took a job in Waco and has tried selling his home for months, but said he couldn't because the HOA wouldn't hand over the certificate of resale.

So Luna called the NBC 5 Responds team to see if we could help.

The Vice President of the Tehama Ridge grayspan style="color: #444444; font-family: Arimo, helvetica, arial, sans-serif; font-size: 17.008px;"> told me she thinks the roof is blue, not gray, but first and foremost, Luna didn't get even approval, and rules are rules.

She said 99 percent of the roofs in the community are shades of brown or grey.

After our story first story aired, hundreds of people signed a petition, demanding that the HOA approve his roof.

And after a months long battle, Luna said the HOA finally agreed to let him sell his home.

No liens no fines, just a problem solved.

We reached out the HOA's Vice President for comment but we haven't heard back.

Luna said he and his family have officially moved to Waco and they're happy this is all behind them.

And he’s grateful to his former neighbors for starting that change.org petition.



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[HVAC Repair Didn't Fix the Problem, NBC 5 Responds]]>Wed, 12 Sep 2018 17:42:41 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/HVAC+091218.jpg

It was 112 degrees outside and not much cooler inside Will and Sarah Freaney's home earlier this summer when their air conditioner stopped working.

"Will was outside and I went out and I said, "The AC, I think it's struggling." and he said, "Well it's probably just working to keep up." recalled Sarah Freaney.

Hours later the air coming from the vents in the home was still warm.

"So I went back out front and I said, "Uh, you're gonna have to come check this out."

Newly married, Will was quickly learning his new wife is always right.

"It was a very loud humming noise you could tell something was wrong," said Will.

They called several companies - needing emergency help late on a Saturday night. King Air Conditioning & Heat stepped up and came right out.

"He looked very professional, came in the back and he looked at it and goes, "We turned it on, it's gotta be the fan, we've been replacing those all week," said Will.

They paid $980, happy to get some cooler air blowing in the home but a half hour later the cool air still hadn’t come.

King Air sent a service tech back out that same night. He told them the unit needed more time to cool the house.

But that never happened. Will and Sarah called again the next day.

This time a supervisor came out and told them the new parts installed weren't needed. The whole unit, inside and out, needed to be replaced.

"Well what about the money I already gave you for the parts, you know these are brand new parts that we thought was going to fix?" asked Will.

He was told they would subtract the money he already paid from the price of a new unit.

Even with the discount, Will and Sarah said they got a better price with a different company.

They hired the new company, but still asked King Air for a refund for the parts they paid for and didn't need.

King Air agreed to give the couple a $350 refund for the service call but nothing more.

They called NBC 5 Responds and we got the problem solved.

The general manager apologized to Will and Sarah saying the issue was not properly escalated within the company. He told us, "We always do what's right to take care of our clients no matter what."

He approved a full refund, putting the cash back in the newlyweds hands.

Remember if you get repairs done, especially on an older device, ask what happens if the repair doesn’t fix the problem and what credits or refunds you’re entitled to receive.

If you don’t feel like you’re getting heard don’t be afraid to ask for a general manager or an owner to make sure you’re talking to the right person.



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Man Says His Hyundai Caught Fire With Daughters Inside]]>Wed, 12 Sep 2018 07:10:09 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/5a+p-n5r+hyundai+car+fi_KXASIOYC_2018-09-12-04-35-091.jpg

Jason Tellefsen said he was driving his daughters home from school when he saw smoke coming from his car.

"I had the girls in the backseat and all of a sudden the whole car just shut off," he said.  

Tellefsen said he pulled over on the side of the road. That’s when he realized his 2012 Hyundai Sonata was on fire.

He pulled his girls out of the car as fast as he could.

"My girls were hysterical," he said. "They were terrified. They had no clue what was going on. They just saw the car on fire."

At first glance, he thought it was a freak accident

But after coming across our stories on non-collision Kia fires, he had more questions and concerns.

"That’s pretty much the exact same thing that happened to us," Tellefsen said.

Consumer watchdog Center for Auto Safety found similar reports lodged with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that suggest it is happening with other Hyundais and Kias.

Both Hyundai and Kia, which are both owned by the Hyundai Motor Group, previously recalled more than 1 million cars for an engine defect. But there were no fire hazards or warnings mentioned in that previous recall.

In June, NHTSA agreed to step up its current oversight of those recalls and review more than 400 complaints of Kia and Hyundai fires that occurred without collisions.

The Center for Auto Safety said that's not far enough: alleging Kias and Hyundais outside of the recall are catching fire, too, many unrelated to the recalled engine defect.

They are now calling for a separate investigation.

“What they should be doing is opening a new investigation into why Kias and Hyundais are catching fire,” said Jason Levine with the Center for Auto Safety.

The Center isn’t optimistic NHTSA will do anything. They point to a recent internal audit of NHTSA - that says it is failing to monitor recalls, saying it does not ensure that remedies are reported completely and in a timely manner.

“NHTSA's failing at making sure recalls are happening as quickly as they need to, as effectively as they need to, and as often as they need to,” Levine said.

The car makers say no recall is needed right now.

In a statement to our sister station in Chicago, Kia said: “...No cause of recent fires has been determined to be the result of a defect...”

Hyundai said that if it and NHTSA "...Find that additional remedies are warranted...we will take action.."

As for Tellefsen's, Hyundai said his vehicle is at the dealership and will be inspected this week.

Hyundai said it diligently monitors for vehicle fires and upon learning of an incident, it takes immediate action.

It’s little comfort for drivers like Tellefse, who feel they barely escaped.

But he feels fortunate that he and his girls made it out alive.

NHTSA confirmed that it’s looking into certain makes and models of Kias and Hyundais that total 1.6 million vehicles.

NHTSA said it prioritizes any complaint involving a vehicle fire, and the agency will not hesitate to use its oversight authorities to ensure vehicle safety.

As for Tellefsen's car, he said his insurance is covering it as a total loss.

We’ll let you know about Hyundai’s inspection results as soon as we get them.

]]>
<![CDATA[Wedding Hotel Room Mix-Up]]>Tue, 11 Sep 2018 19:43:36 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/214*120/Wayne-NBC5R-091118.jpg

A Mansfield family arrived to check in to their hotel before a wedding, only to find out there were no rooms left -- even though they had reservations. So they called NBC 5 Responds.

Photo Credit: NBC 5]]>
<![CDATA[Frisco Woman Waits Months for Fridge Repair]]>Tue, 11 Sep 2018 07:09:09 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/consumer-responds-fridge.jpg

A couple years ago, Mary Aday bought an LG refrigerator. But on June 8 of this year, she said it went out completely.

She said Sears sent a technician out not once, not twice, but three times.

After the third try, she said the technician told her the fridge was not repairable, and she needed to call the manufacturer, LG.

Aday said she's called LG every week for the last three months.

"Their customer service stinks," she said.

When she finally reached a manager, she said LG blamed the delay on Sears, saying they didn't send LG a full service report.

When she called Sears, she said they told her they did send a full report.

Aday eventually had to buy another fridge that cost her $1,100.

"I decide to call you, NBC 5 Responds. I've seen your investigative reporting on TV. I don't have anything to lose," she explained.

We started with Sears, the company that sold her the fridge.

Sears told us that LG is the manufacturer of the fridge, and LG could have sent out their own technicians. It's not up to the Sears home warranty to prove anything to LG.

We then turned to LG, asking them why they haven't sent out a technician. LG said they'd get back to us.

Aday got several phone calls from the company that same week.

In a statement, LG confirmed that they have been working with Mary to resolve the situation. That same week, LG sent out a technician, and much to Aday's surprise, the fridge was finally fixed.

"You got the ball rolling," she said. "They weren't listening to me, but they listened to you and that's when things started happening."

Aday said that LG has offered to pay her $200 for the food she lost and $750 for the extra fridge she had to buy.

In a statement, LG had this to say:

"NBC 5 to the rescue! This is another good example of how KXAS-TV serves its viewers."



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Woman's Jeep Damaged After Driving Down Road Being Repaired]]>Mon, 10 Sep 2018 17:15:27 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Jeep+stuck+in+construction+zone+091018.jpg

Yessica Rostro and her sister were headed home from school in their brand new Jeep. It's her first car -- she calls it her dream car.

But things weren't so great as she came upon a set of large steel plates lying in the road, which was under construction.

"As we approached the plates a truck came by and it went over them, it bent the plates it concaved, my car just struck the plate and got stuck there," Rostro said.

When they got the car free, the news wasn't good.

"The whole front bottom part was destroyed, it broke the axle, the place where the motor sits broke off, so all of that was on the floor, as it was towed away it scraped the pavement," Rostro said.

The construction manager on site sent an adjuster from their insurance company to check out the vehicle. Yessica wanted to know if the company was going to pay for it.

"I tried to contact them for several weeks, and I would just get her voicemail, I emailed her, I got automatic replies to call in another week and I would call and get the same thing. Call in another week," she said.

Word finally came that the company wouldn't pay. A letter from the insurance company said a truck had moved the steel plate designed to protect cars from the hole.  

The insurance company said Yessica came along shortly after the truck and the construction company didn't have a chance to put the plate back, so they weren't at fault and wouldn't pay.

"It was completely unfair, I was driving a Jeep, designed to be driven off the road," Rostro said.

Yessica had insurance, but only liability coverage, so it wouldn't pay for the damage to her car.  

She now understands the importance of full coverage.  

The producers in our Consumer Investigative Center still reached out and asked the insurance company to take a second look.

"The following day, the claim representative called me and said we have good news, we reviewed the photos and videos you sent us, we are going to pay for your car," she said.

The lesson here is pretty obvious. A lack of insurance on your car can cause big problems for you.

As for that steel plate in the road getting moved, the Texas Department of Transportation tells NBC 5 there are no statewide regulations for those and who's responsible.  



Photo Credit: Yessica Rostro]]>
<![CDATA[Carmakers Urge Consumers to Replace Recalled Airbags]]>Mon, 10 Sep 2018 06:59:38 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/takata+airbags.jpg

Honda and Toyota are practically begging consumers to find out if their airbags are under recall.

Out of the 42 million Takata airbags under recall, nearly 16 million are still on the roads.

Executives at Toyota said they’re not taking this lightly.

The defective airbags have already claimed the lives of 15 people in the U.S., injuring nearly 300.

"These inflators can over pressure when the airbag deploys, and the inflator assembly can actually rupture and shoot shrapnel into the cabin," said Tim Trisdale, Toyota’s VP of Product Quality.

He said one of the biggest problems they’re facing is awareness.

"Some people don’t realize that a recall repair is a free repair at the dealership," Trisdale said.

It’s a problem that Honda is also facing with its customers. The automaker is now scanning license plates around the country to see if the vehicle has been recalled and repaired.

Toyota is also taking extra measures.

"We’ll even tow or come and pick up the vehicle if necessary to get you in and get the vehicle repaired," Trisdale explained.

Here in North Texas, he said there are 22,000 vehicles that are of grave concern. They include certain Toyota, Lexus and Scion models in priority groups 1-3.

"Based and the age of these inflators and the markets they’re in, that’s 22,000 that we need in Dallas right now," he said.

Toyota told us it has plenty of parts for its customers.

Meanwhile, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is now pushing carmakers to make their Takata airbag repair plans public, saying in part, "It is imperative that manufacturers take every available step to reach each and every owner of a vehicle with deadly air bags, and take action to ensure that those dangerous air bags are replaced as soon as is safely possible."

Trisdale and executives at Toyota say they will do everything they can to get defective Takata airbags off the roads.

"We need you to come in," he said.

If you’ve tried to get your airbag replaced, but the dealership is telling you they’re out of parts, you are not alone. There are some carmakers who are still waiting for their parts to come in. If that’s case, ask for a loaner car.

When we reported on a parts shortage with Fords, the company agreed to provide a loaner car to customers still waiting on parts.

If you’re not sure if your car is under recall,  check today.

You can visit safercar.gov and enter your vin. There’s also and app called Airbag Recall.



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Safety Technology Popping Up In More Vehicles]]>Fri, 07 Sep 2018 17:58:36 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Toyota+Steering+Wheel+090718.jpg

Adam Lovelady specializes in technology at Toyota's North American Headquarters in Plano. He says the company has made a number of active safety systems standard on almost every car it builds. He showed us steering assistance.

"If we started to drift out of our lane, you can see the alert, you hear it and this vehicle has steering assist, so it will actually also push on the steering wheel to get us back into the lane," Lovelady said.

There's also dynamic cruise control.

"If somebody cuts in front of you or you come up on slower traffic, the car is going to respond to maintain that same distance," Lovelady said.

We saw it first hand the day we drove with him. Cruise control was set and while driving we came across an accident. The car slowed itself down and then came to a complete stop on I-635.

Many cars have pedestrian protection as well.

"It could pick up a bicyclist if needed, automatically apply the brakes to avoid the collision," Lovelady said.

While the technology may be cool now, it's all improving and will eventually bring us closer to self-driving vehicles.

"I've got little kids and I assume one day these technologies in the hands of teenager would be priceless to me as a father," he said.

You can find similar versions of this technology from many automakers, and many newer-model cars have it. Your dealer can help you figure out how they work and there are several instructional videos on YouTube as well.



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Viewer Steps in After Toddler's Birthday Party Was Ruined]]>Thu, 06 Sep 2018 17:19:46 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/211*120/toddler+birthday+ruined.jpg

Within 24 hours of airing Vicki Ramirez's story, we had good news.

Ramirez told us how her daughter loved Tinkerbell, so she hired a company to bring Tinkerbell to their home for the girl's birthday party but the company never came even though they were paid in full.

A viewer saw the hurt, and financial hardship, it created for the family and gave Ramirez $200 -- enough to cover the cost of Tinkerbell and have a little extra money to buy a birthday gift for her daughter.

The NBC 5 viewer asked to remain anonymous.

You can read Ramirez's story and the company involved here.



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Man Accused of Taking Money for Fake Veterans' Charity]]>Thu, 06 Sep 2018 09:44:02 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Robocall_Warning_in_the_Bay_Area.jpg

A man in Utah is accused of soliciting donations to fake veterans' charities and promising bogus tax write offs.

One woman who logged robocalls from the man helped the Federal Trade Commission in Chicago build one of its cases against bogus veterans' charities and against the man they believe is running them by using websites to help lure unsuspecting donors.

According to the lawsuit, the accused man is Travis Deloy Peterson of Utah, who they say collected thousands of cars and boats from generous Americans and sold them at auction, pocketing the proceeds within the last four years.

"He’s preying on people’s sympathies to get them to donate goods to help service members and veterans and then he’s using most of that money just for his own personal expenses," Todd Kossow with the FTC.

Nancy McDaniel was on the receiving end of those calls for years, and skeptical from the get-go.

Instead of donating, she started logging complaints a dozen times in the last four years.

A spokesperson from the FTC in Chicago said her logs payed off.

"Nancy is somebody who ignored the robocalls," Kossow said. "She didn’t pick up. But she did keep track of all the robocalls she got and she provided us with that information."

The FTC said thousands of complaints have been lodged against the many "fake charities" run by Peterson.

Peterson is accused of using the money meant for veterans to pay for personal vacations, dining, matchmaking services and even an all-terrain vehicle.

His assets are now frozen and his operation shut down while the case continues.

The FTC said that Peterson has taken in nearly $500,000 in donations over the last four years.

We tried to reach out to him for comment but two phone numbers in his name are out of order.

The FTC said he is not represented by an attorney in this case.

]]>
<![CDATA[Woman Loses Thousands of Dollars in Fake Check Scheme]]>Wed, 05 Sep 2018 17:54:44 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Fake+Check+Scheme+090518.jpg

The Better Business Bureau is warning North Texans to watch out for fake checks being sent in the mail.

People across the area are losing money and it's happening more often. Several victims shared stories of how they were targeted.

One man was contacted and asked to paint a house, another to make a promotional video and Pamela Dunca was told she won the lottery.

"They said I won $5,000 and they wanted to send me a check in the mail," she told NBC 5 Responds.

The check came, she deposited it and was told she had to wire money back for fees and taxes.

That's a huge red flag.

Thousands of fake checks have been reported to the BBB this year alone.

It's enough to have the organization meeting with banks and the Federal Trade Commission. They're working together to come up with a way to help spot fake checks before people lose money.

Pamela's entire social security check went to cover the fake check she deposited. Her next two social security checks will be eaten up, too, just paying the bank back.

She had to turn to neighbors and friends just to get food to eat and pay her rent.

The Better Business Bureaus said it's working with banks trying to develop technology to help spot these fake checks as soon as you deposit them.

Even if it happens, the crooks will likely come up with another way to trick you.

So, consider yourself warned, never deposit a check for any reason if someone asks you to send them part of the money back.

NBC 5 Responds has reached out to Pamela's bank to see if it can work with her to pay the money back over time.

We will keep you posted on our efforts.



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Plano Woman Loses $2K in Police Impostor Scam]]>Wed, 05 Sep 2018 07:24:40 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/plano-police-scam.jpg

Over the last few years, Courtney Duva has made a living helping women look and feel their very best. She rarely takes calls at work, but last month the Plano stylist received several calls from an unfamiliar number.

She decided to answer. Duva said the caller informed her that he was with the federal government and he had a warrant for her arrest.

If she hung up, they’d arrest her on the spot.

Duva said she assured the man she didn’t do anything wrong. But then, another call came in, and the caller ID showed the Plano Police Department’s phone number.

"They said, 'okay, so your social was stolen and your name was stolen,'" she said.

Duva said the officer told her a woman in Austin had been using her identity to commit drug crimes. In order to clear her name and identity, she needed to drain her bank account.

Duva was then ordered to transfer all of her money onto Google Play gift cards to keep her funds safe and secure.

She put $2,000 on the cards and sent pictures of the cards as instructed. But when she called Plano PD’s number back, she said a real officer let her know this was a total scam.

Plano Detective Jerry Minton said this scam is becoming a major problem for departments across the country. He said the crooks are spoofing caller IDs, making you think the number that appears on your phone is that of law enforcement.

"What they’re doing is, they’re playing on people’s fears," he said.

Detective Minton said in today’s climate, people are afraid of law enforcement, and in many cases, they're willing to do whatever it takes to avoid the police, even if that means paying first and asking questions later.

"With the badgering techniques that are being used, they are catching people off guard," he explained.

Duva said she still blames herself.

"I felt embarrassed, humiliated," she said.

But Detective Minton said she shouldn’t because there are a lot of other victims out there.

"These people are professionals. This is their 9 to 5 job and this is what they’ve been trained to do by other people. Unfortunately, they're pretty good at it," Minton explained.

Minton said he has issued a search warrant to Google so that he can try to track down those cards and where all of that money went.

We reached out to Google for comment and haven’t heard back.

Plano PD wants to remind consumers that they would never threaten or badger you over the phone for money, and they certainly wouldn’t ask you to send use gift cards to protect your money.

So if you’re ever doubtful, hang up.

Call the department’s number and ask to speak with a detective. They’ll be able to tell you if you’re being scammed.



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Homeowners Waiting To Learn Who Will Pay For Flood Damage]]>Tue, 04 Sep 2018 18:32:25 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Richardson+Homes+Water+Damage.jpg

Water service is finally returning to normal for many people in Richardson after a water main break there last week.

The problems are just getting started for those homes damaged by the break.  

Homeowners say they’re still trying to get someone to take responsibility for the incident and find out who will pay for the thousands of dollars in repair to their homes.

It’s possible homeowners and flood insurance both may deny your claim in a situation like this.

By law the water district has protections in place to keep them from paying your private damages.

Melinda Hutchenrider’s home was Ground Zero for the water main break.

Her floors, walls, furniture were soaked for hours as the water kept pouring in. She called her insurance company for help.

"We get a call a day after saying we’re not even sending an agent, you’re not covered, this is not our issue," said Hutchenrider.

Homeowner’s policies don’t cover flooding. You need flood insurance for that, but even flood insurance has very specific coverage.

"Coverage is dependent on numerous factors related to the damage to the building, and how the flood occurred. We strongly urge policyholders to speak with their individual insurance company" said a spokesperson for FEMA.

Homeowners in Richardson say their agents have turned them down, and the water district hasn’t made them feel much better.

"She told us this has never happened, we don’t know what we’re going to do, you have a claim number but I can’t guarantee you today that we’re going to pay for anything," said Hutchenrider after a call with the districts third party claims representative.

NBC 5 Responds spoke to insurance industry experts, FEMA, even disaster cleanup crews who all say there is no clear way these or any homeowner could have protected themselves from this.

It’s a liability that’s outside of their home and laws on the books often protect public utilities and cities from being held accountable. 

Ultimately insurance companies, homeowners, and the water authority may have to hash this all out in court.

In the meantime, it's left in the hands of the families to handle.

"We don’t have that kind of money, we don’t have that kind of savings," said Hutchenrider.

The North Texas Municipal Water District said they're working with the district's insurance carrier on the next steps.

They released a statement saying in part:

"At this time, the appropriate process is for the involved insurance companies for homeowners and the District to review the claims for available coverage. We understand this process is frustrating and time consuming, and we are working to provide further information to homeowners as soon as possible"



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Update: Man Gets Guitar Back After Counterfeit Gold Scheme]]>Tue, 04 Sep 2018 07:08:53 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/consumer-responds-guitar-scheme.jpg

Cody Gleason thought he came across a solid deal. He wanted to trade his Gibson Les Paul guitar in exchange for gold bullion.

A man came across his ad online and wanted to make the transaction happen. Gleason said the man assured him that the gold was real — he even used a magnet to prove it.

The next day, he took it to a local gold and silver shop and learned the trade was a scheme and the gold was fake.

"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.

His case was eventually picked up by the Dallas County District Attorney's Office, and about a month later, Gabriel Carter was arrested on a felony theft charge.

Court documents refer to Carter's actions as a scheme by exercising control over the guitar "…namely by deception."

Even though charges had been filed, Gleason never thought he’d see his guitar again. But, he recently got a call from the DA's office, which said they had something of his that he’d want to see.

And just like that, he got his guitar back.

The Dallas County DA’s office explained that because the case is still pending, they cannot provide a comment at this time.

We also reached out to Carter’s attorney, and we haven’t heard back.

Gleason told us when he was picking up his guitar, another man was there to pick up his guitar, too.

That man said he saw our first story, went to the police, and he’s happy to have his property back.



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Tips on Getting the Most From Your Android Phone]]>Fri, 31 Aug 2018 17:19:59 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/211*120/Android+Tips.jpg

Research shows about 70 percent of Americans have a smart phone, but do you know all the things your smartphone can do? NBC 5 Consumer Responds went to an expert at AT&T to find out how to make your Android do more for you.

First up, the floating camera button, it works on both the Samsung S9 and Note 8. You'll find it in camera settings, all the way down at the bottom, click "floating camera." When you turn it on you'll be able to move the camera button around to the best spot on the phone's screen for you.

Additionally, you can use Bixby which is Samsung’s version of Siri to help adjust the photo. Simply click the button on the bottom left hand and say "Bixby auto adjust my photo and save it."

Bixby also uses something called Shop on Sight. Point your camera at an object in real life and tap "Shopping" to see online deals for similar items.

You can also use your camera to virtually try on makeup and skincare products.

If you are big traveler or planning on traveling, Bixby and your camera can also translate a menu or signs on the go!

Note 8 is known for the Dual Lens and Select Focus. Launch camera, swipe right for selfie mode,  swipe left and click "Selected Focus."

Next, secure files allows you to hide files and photos that may be personal, so that you will need a passcode to access the file. You can make that file invisible to other users, only you will know where it is and how to access it.

Just go to settings then click lock and security, select secure folder, to make it invisible simply tap "hide secure folder" and "ok" to confirm.

Another feature you'll want to consider is Samsung Pay. Whether you forgot your wallet at home or simply have too many credit cards to manage, mobile payments can be a huge convenience. Just hold your phone up to a compatible payment terminal to complete a transaction! Samsung Pay works even on older terminals that don't typically support mobile payments.



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Tips for Dealing With Damaged Deliveries]]>Fri, 31 Aug 2018 05:39:13 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/consumer-responds-couch.jpg

You may have experienced buying an item and receiving it damaged. A consumer we spoke with says that when it happened to him, he thought it would be easy to get a replacement or a refund.

John D'Arcy told NBC Philadelphia that the went to a furniture store and purchased a new couch. But when it was delivered, there was a problem.

In the photos he took, it appears as though the center leg doesn't reach the floor. He said he called customer service but couldn't get through.

So, he went back to the store requesting a replacement or a refund.

"I talked to the sales associate there and I had some email correspondence with her, and she said she would get back to me," he said.

D'Arcy said she never did, and five weeks went by before the store sent someone to retrieve the couch. But, still no word on his refund.

D'Arcy said he started calling customer service time and time again. He said at one point, the company did tell him it sent him a gift card, but he never received it.

The furniture store wouldn’t say what caused the delay, but it did say it would be handled.

The National Association of Consumer Advocates has advice for consumers on how you can protect yourself should you have a similar problem. The association said you should:

• Refuse delivery if your item arrives damaged or defective.
• Make your purchase with a credit card.
• If your item's damaged, dispute the charge right away. That way your credit card company can fight for you.

D'Arcy did get his $970 dollar refund for the couch and the company sent him a complimentary $200 gift card.

He said he’ll continue to place delivery orders, and he knows what to do moving forward.

]]>
<![CDATA[Beware: Some Jersey Sites Can't Be Trusted]]>Mon, 03 Sep 2018 08:43:45 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/ezekiel-ellioitt-jersey.jpg

Bill Cureton loves the Dallas Cowboys. But his son Ben — he's a fanatic.

"The Cowboys are a good local team," said Ben.

He wanted a Sean Lee jersey for Christmas to add to his impressive collection. His dad searched online, but all the well known businesses were all sold out.

He started browsing through unfamiliar sites and came across Fansgoods.com.

"Well, when you log into the site, it looks like a normal NFL licensed shop," says Cureton.

And there the Sean Lee jersey was; the right size at a great price. He placed the order, and got a confirmation email, but no tracking or shipping number.

Two months later, no jersey.

"I continue send them E-mails saying, 'where is it? what's going on here?' The same answer is, due to the volume of it being Christmas, customs is backed up," says Cureton, "I'm basically right now saying OK, this is a loss."

Dave Westray is in the same situation. He came across Cowboynavyshop.com in November and ordered a Dak Prescott jersey for his wife.

Christmas rolled around, and the jersey never came.

"I emailed again in January and said I'm done, I've had it, I want my money back, cancel the order. And that's when they said I'm sorry, you are not allowed to cancel your order. It really hurts to think I got burned," says Westray.

At first glance you'd think these companies are legit. One even shows the NFL logo, but with no customer service number on one page, a non-working number on the other, ridiculously cheap prices and dozens of complaints online, the warning signs were there.

"I guess it's that old adage: buyer beware," says Westray.

We reached out to both companies to find out what happened to these guys orders. We haven't heard back, but Cureton did.

"Then, kind of all of a sudden, it arrived Saturday afternoon," he said.

The jersey looks like the real deal, but the label says it was shipped out of Shanghai.

According to a Cowboys spokesperson, "Any site shipping direct form a foreign country is unauthorized.”

Ben says he's still going to wear his Sean Lee jersey for the Super Bowl. But Westray's wife is out of luck.

"That was my lesson learned. If you want legitimate stuff, you gotta go to a legitimate place."

These sites are everywhere.

If you shop online for jerseys you need to find out where your item is being shipped from. If it’s out of the country, you probably shouldn’t buy it if you're looking for authentic apparel.

Don’t be fooled by the NFL logo on a website.

If you are physically looking at team merchandise, there are clues to tell if the product is authentic.

Price, again, is a big consideration. Also, look at the stitching. It's often sloppy on fakes. Tags should not be cut or say "irregular." There can also be misspellings on the actual item.

And the biggest clue — the hologram.

All NFL merchandise carries it. When you move it back and forth and from side to side, you should see a different or changing picture. Fakes either don't have a sticker at all, or they will carry something shiny, but not a true hologram.

The NFL recommends ordering directly from its website at NFL.com.

]]>
<![CDATA[One Automaker is Going Door-To-Door to Replace Faulty Takata Airbags]]>Thu, 30 Aug 2018 17:53:44 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/takata+airbags.jpg

Almost a decade after the first recall of deadly Takata airbags was issued, millions of cars remain on the road with defective units. One automaker is going to extreme lengths to try and make sure owners of its vehicles stay safe.

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[NBC 5 Responds to Frontier Communications' Billing Error]]>Thu, 30 Aug 2018 05:51:44 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/186*120/TV+remote1.jpg

Like many of us, James Veitenheimer loves to kick his feet up and watch TV during his down time.

He also likes to record his shows, so he added a DVR to his Frontier Communications cable service.

All was going well with the DVR Until he noticed a $200 charge on his bill for an unreturned DVR.

Veitenheimer compared the serial number on his bill to the serial number on the DVR. It was the same. His DVR was still in use and shouldn't have been listed as unreturned. 

He said he called Frontier Communications about this for five months, and each time, he said they acknowledged the problem, but they said they didn't have the authority to fix it.

So, the consumer called a group that specializes in fixing problems: NBC 5 Responds.

Frontier Communications told us their representative did not follow procedure and apologized for the lack of service he experienced.

That same week, Veitenheimer got a call from the cable company, letting him know the problem was corrected and he'd see the $200 credit on his bill in a few days.

Problem solved.

]]>
<![CDATA[Party Foul: Characters Are No-Shows for Toddler's Birthday]]>Wed, 29 Aug 2018 17:41:50 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Dora+the+Explorer+cake+082918.jpg

One of the coolest parts of being a parent is throwing your kid the perfect birthday party.

Imagine throwing a party around your child's favorite cartoon character and that character doesn't show up.

Two North Texas moms said it happened to them.

Brittany Baxster's son, Maddox, is a big fan of Dora the Explorer -- and her pals Boots and Diego. 

She wanted to make sure all three were at her son's third birthday party, so she hired a party planner to make it happen.

But come party time, the characters didn't show. 

"No text messages -- not only am I calling her, my family members are calling her, my friends are calling her, no answer," Baxster said.

The same thing happened to Vicki Ramirez, who ordered Tinkerbell for her daughter's party.

"She hadn't reached out to me all day. Finally about 6:30 p.m.-6:45 p.m. she reached out to me and said she was overbooked," Vicki said.

Brittany paid $274 and Vicki paid $157 after they hired "Royalty Adventures," a business promoted on Facebook under the name "A Royalty Prince and Princess."

The women said not only did the characters not show, but they ruined the parties, and didn't return the money.

"She said it's going to take 30 days to get me a refund on the Cash App. I said, 'No ma'am, it's going to take 30 seconds.' It took 30 seconds for me to pay you in full so you need make it a priority to get the bank and pay me my money back ASAP," Baxster said.

Baxster filed a claim with her credit card company and got her money back.

NBC 5 Responds spoke to a woman who identified herself as the company's owner. 

She apologized for missing the party, and said her employees had heat exhaustion from a previous party and were hospitalized. 

She said since Baxster got a refund from her bank, she considered the case closed.

As for Vicki, the owner said she didn't have any information on her party and what may have gone wrong that day.

She also said she didn't immediately return the money because she didn't have it.  

She said she spent the money on her business and didn't have the funds in her account to provide a refund.

The call disconnected and the owner didn't respond to any further calls or messages.

"She broke my son's heart," Baxster said.

Baxster did have a contract, but it was not signed. It was really more like a receipt listing what she paid for, and it didn't spell out the consequences of what happened if the company didn't show.

That's something you should look for when hiring such a company.

NBC 5 Responds has tried repeatedly to reach out to the owner to help Vicki get her money back, but our calls were not returned. 



Photo Credit: Brittany Baxster]]>
<![CDATA[Denton Woman Says Kia Won't Reimburse Her After Car Fire]]>Wed, 29 Aug 2018 07:06:16 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/5a+p-n5r+kia+fires_KXASIJ47_2018-08-29-04-35-44.jpg

A Denton woman says she was driving down Interstate 35 when in a matter of minutes, her Kia went up in flames.

Amy McDade's story, she said, is far from isolated -- Kia owners from across the country are reporting that their cars spontaneously erupted in flames.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) confirms it's investigating certain makes and models of 618,000 Kia vehicles.

But what's Kia doing to resolve the problem? The automaker recently had McDade's 2013 Optima Hybrid inspected, but she was shocked by Kia's verdict. After careful review, Kia said it was "unable to determine an exact cause of the fire."

Based on the inspection, Kia said the car did not experience engine failure, and the cause may possibly be electrical in nature. But Kia said it will take no further action in this matter at this time.

"I was just in total disbelief," she said.

McDade said her insurance company initially denied her claim, saying it was a manufacturers defect. She said she appealed the decision and the insurance company ended up sending her a check for $9,000.

She said she's still surprised at how Kia has handled her case, and she won't keep quiet. 

"Even if you're not going to help me, I can help someone else not be in the position that I'm in," she said.

We reached out to Kia for a response on its decision several times and we're still waiting on a response.



Photo Credit: NBC 5]]>
<![CDATA[What Does Your Warranty Really Promise?]]>Tue, 28 Aug 2018 17:20:11 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/N5R+Doorknobs+082818.jpg

One of the things that makes consumers feel better when they buy a product is hearing that it has a warranty.

But how often does the average consumer take the time to see what that warranty really says and what it promises?

Michelle McManus bought some designer doorknobs online. She bought them in a large, bulk pack of 30 to use throughout her home.

The doorknobs came with a five-year warranty against any defects.

So, months later, when one stopped working, McManus called the company and they promised a refund for the one knob.

It meant she'd only get back a little more than $4 -- the amount of just one of the doorknobs in the set.

NBC 5 Responds reached out to the company and -- problem solved -- they agreed to break a set and give her a single replacement.

When buying something with a warranty, ask how the supplier handles claims in writing, especially when buying things in a set.

How much money will you get? Will the supplier issue replacements? And what's the process when you don't agree on the fix?

It can seem like a lot to do when you just want to buy something, but that one email to customer service could save you a headache in the future.



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Widow Waits 6 Months for Husband's Nursing Home Refund]]>Tue, 28 Aug 2018 07:12:18 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/responds-nursing-home-refund.jpg

What started as a blind date turned into 50 years of marriage — Nina and John Opella were inseparable.

But in 1984, Nina's dear husband started having some challenges.

"He said when he would look, it would look like he was looking through a chain-linked fence," she recalled. "We took him to the doctor and they said it's just optical neuritis."

But his health problems gradually got worse. He was eventually diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. A stroke followed a few years later.

John stayed at the Senior Care at Denton nursing home for five years until he lost his battle with MS.

In January of this year, Opella got a bill from the nursing home that showed they owed her money.

"I was owed $1,017.06," she said.

Opella said she was told they'd process her refund. But after two weeks, she didn't hear from anyone. Another month later, her patience was running thin.

"Why aren't you getting back to me? If you're not going to get back to me, don't lie to me. I don't like to be lied to," she said. "I'm a determined old person. I don't give up. I was owed this. You told me I was owed this. Now, give it to me."

But when she realized she wasn't getting very far, she decided to call NBC 5 Responds.

We reached out to the nursing home. They said due to HIPAA privacy laws, they couldn't share any details or even confirm her husband was a patient of theirs.

But not long after we called, Opella received a check for $1,017.06.

She plans on using that money to take her husband to his native land near Prague.

"I'm going to bury him there. Take him home," she said.



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Frisco Man Says 'Out of Line' HOA Wants Shutters Changed]]>Mon, 27 Aug 2018 15:30:12 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/211*120/consumer-responds-frisco-shutters.PNG

A man in Frisco called NBC 5 after his homeowner's association demanded that he stain his shutters. He says the HOA is out of line, and believes his shutters are just fine.

Back in 2006, Joseph Lanucha made the decision to leave the Bay Area and move to the Lone Star State. He wanted to personalize his Frisco home and give it some Texas flavor. He thought weathered shutters would be a great addition.

In 2007, he said he got verbal approval by the previous HOA to add weathered shutters to the front of his home.

Fast forward to 2015; eight years later. Joseph said the HOA started raising concerns over the way his shutters looked.

"I went and told them I had gotten approval for weathered shutters, and lo and behold nothing further," he said.

Lanucha said he didn't hear anything else about his shutters for three years.

But earlier this year, he got a notice in the mail: "On the last drive through of the neighborhood, the following was noticed at your residence: Please apply a fresh coat of stain to your shutters."

"I didn't know where this was coming from," he said.

Lanucha said they're not falling apart, rotting or hanging by a screw. As far as he's concerned, his weathered-style shutters are in great condition.

"Even as we stand here in the street, you can't even see the shutters," he said.

Joseph said he voiced his concerns at an HOA board meeting and was told they'd get back to him.

A couple months later, he received another notice: "Please apply a fresh coat of stain on your shutters to match your home in accordance with article 4.1…"

According to article 4.1, each owner is required to maintain their lot in a "clean, first class condition."

"Define it! Don't leave it up to liberal interpretation," he said.

Lanucha said article 4.1 doesn't even mention the word shutters, so he believes the HOA is out of line.

"I work hard. I put a lot of money into this house," he said. "That is really unnerving that the HOA can exercise that much power and authority over a helpless homeowner."

Lanucha reached out to the NBC 5 Responds team for help, and we reached out to the HOA, Waterstone.

Their management company told us, "The HOA is not requesting the removal of the shutters. That is not the issue. The condition of the shutters have deteriorated over the years. We are only requesting that he maintain them."

They also said that part of its obligation is to ensure that properties maintain "certain architectural standards, which may include subjective and discretionary determinations."

They said "the wood shutters have now weathered more than the architectural standards of the community."

Thus, HOA is standing by its decision, but have agreed to give Lanucha more time to paint or stain his shutters.

"This is my house, not theirs. This is my money that I work hard for to invest in this house," Lanucha said. When you have dictatorial property management companies and people on boards telling you what you can and cannot do, that's not freedom. That's not America.

We talked to a real estate attorney about Lanucha's case.

He said article 4.1 in the HOA's bylaws wouldn't be legally enforceable because it's way too ambiguous.

He said state law is silent on shutters, and believes the state needs to have a body that regulates these HOAs.

We reached out to Gov. Greg Abbott's office about this, and we're still waiting to hear back.



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Tricks Your iPhone Can Do You May Not Know About]]>Fri, 24 Aug 2018 17:58:43 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/iphone-teach-tips-tricks-cu.jpg

Many of us have a hard time going anywhere without our smartphones. But your smartphone may have a few little secret gems inside that you may not know about.

iPhone Features:

  • Live Photos -- Capture photos that come alive when you touch them. Then you can pick a different key photo, add a fun effect, edit your Live Photo, and share with your family and friends. All from your iPhone 6s and later.
    • Simply open your camera, click on the circle on the top right hand and that will activate live photo.
  • Record your screen -- If you need to show someone how to do something, you can now record your iPhone screen and then send them the video so they can follow along. It's helpful when someone asks you how to do something on the iPhone 8. You can record with audio or without depending on what you want to do.
    • Open Control Center -- Tap on the record icon -> Choose microphone on or off and then tap on start recording.
  • Record 4k 60FPS Videos -- This means you end up with a better video file for editing later or for showing fast motion like a race car or a kid sprinting past during soccer, football or track.
    • Go to settings, scroll down to “camera”; Look for “record video 1080 at 30 fps” and tap; then click 4k at 60 fps. Remember to go back to the original settings after recording your video.
    • The downside is that this will take up a lot of storage if you use it all the time, so keep that in mind when you turn it on.
  • Photo search -- helps finds pictures without scrolling through your entire library of pictures.
    • Click on your photos app.
    • Click on the magnifying icon next to the edit button in the top right of the screen.
    • Type what you are looking for (Christmas, dog, cat, food, train, cars) and all images that you search for should appear.
  • Calculator backspace -- helps correct errors when using calculator.
    • Open calculator and type a number with several digits.
    • Then swipe left or right across the numbers and the last digit will be erased.
  • Scientific Calculator mode:
    • Open the calculator.
    • Then turn the phone horizontally and the scientific calculator buttons should appear.



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[NBC 5 Helps Rental Car Customer Get Deposit Back]]>Fri, 24 Aug 2018 06:18:57 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/executive-car-rental-return.jpg

A McKinney woman says a rental car company is taking security deposits from drivers, but when it's time to pay people back, the company goes M.I.A.

Separated by hundreds of miles, Karin Wymer said living away from her mom isn't easy. But when they do get together in Tampa, they're always on the move.

In order to show her mother a good time, Wymer needed wheels to get around. So, she reserved a vehicle through Executive Car Rental and picked it up on May 22.

She said the price for three days was very affordable. But as she signed the paperwork, she learned a $250 security deposit was required.

"I thought, that's unusual," she said.

But she ended up paying it. Wymer said she returned the car in excellent condition and was told she'd get her deposit back in three to five business days.

But a couple weeks later, the deposit money still wasn't in her account. She said a customer service agent told her they'd take care of it. But the next day: nothing.

Another week went by, so she called again.

"That's when I was told, 'oh, this has happened to some other customers. You're not alone,'" said Wymer.

She said the agent told her there was an issue with the bank.

Wymer said she asked to speak with a manager and was told there was no manager available, but they assured her they were working on it and she'd have her deposit back soon.

But after month two of waiting, she started doing some digging.

"I had seen online where there were other folks with the same issue," she said.

Several people on the Better Business Bureau's website have also demanded to get their deposits returned. The company, with upwards of 50 locations nationwide, also has some complaints on its Facebook page.

After seeing a number of NBC 5 Responds stories on NBC 5 Today, Wymer decided to give us a call.

After several attempts, we finally got a hold of a manager at Executive Car Rental.

Someone from the management team told us that they have been having issues with their credit card processing and their banking system, which they are in the process of correcting.

They said some of the comments online are not true, but for those that are, they're working on getting it all fixed so that everyone gets their refunds back.

About a week after we contacted the company, Wymer said she got a welcomed surprise in her bank account: $250.

The company called us to confirm she received the money and apologized for the inconvenience this may have caused.

Security deposits can sometimes be hard to get back, so whether you're renting a car or a home, here are Samantha Chatman's Solutions:

• Always take before and after pictures.
• Read your rental agreement thoroughly.
• If you don't understand the security deposit rules, ask questions and document what you're told.



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Renting Textbooks Save College Students Money]]>Thu, 23 Aug 2018 18:12:47 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/211*120/college+textbooks.jpg

College textbooks can easily cost more than $100 a piece. 

Lauren Ailles, a student at the University of Texas at Arlington says it adds up and puts students in a budget crunch. 

"A book can average from $50 to $300," said Ailles.

There are now more ways than ever to get those books for less.

You can sell used textbooks on chegg.com. The website claims it can help you save up to ninety percent on textbooks by renting them.

For example, a biology textbook sells for $85, but you can rent it for $26.99.

Another platform for inexpensive textbooks is Bookbyte, their website includes a cheat sheet for buying books for as little as possible.

Bookbytes' tips include buying a previous edition of a textbook, you can also sell used books through their site.

Lauren says at UT Arlington many students are using these services, but finding another way to save even more.

"I will coordinate with my classmates, get a textbook and split it so we don't have to pay as much and share it," said Ailles.

Amazon is another option, they let you download textbook rentals to your Kindle device.

You can also put technology to work for you. Price comparison apps like Shopsavvy and Honey can help you find the best deal and even get money back.

If you're buying electronics like a new computer, refurbished or certified-used options can save you an significant amount of money, but know you also forfeit your right to a warranty in many of those cases. 

]]>
<![CDATA[What's Going on With Mysterious 'Uber Codes'?]]>Thu, 23 Aug 2018 05:51:58 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/responds-uber-codes.jpg

One day, a mysterious "Uber code" popped up on an NBC producer's phone. Surprised by the unsolicited message, we looked into it and found other Uber customers complaining in online forums.

In Florida: "How can I stop these texts? I am getting one every 2 to 3 minutes. Help I'm going crazy."

Same thing in Connecticut: "What's going on with Uber right now? Been getting spammed every three minutes with verification codes."

And in California: "Uber sending texts with "my Uber code" even though I've deleted my account months ago."

What do the codes mean? Are hackers trying to access accounts? Are Uber customers getting billed for bogus rides?

The short answer is no.

"These codes are sent when someone tries to create an account using your phone number — which is usually a typo or an automated bot trying to create a fake account," an Uber spokesperson in Texas explained.

They also added that consumers are not at risk because "the text is sent to verify the phone number before creating an account." which cannot be created "without first confirming you own the phone number entered in the sign up process."

What should you do if you get one?

Uber told us typing the word "STOP" would prevent getting further texts. So the responds producer tried it.

The ride share company says it is "in the process of updating the copy in these text messages so that it's clearer to consumers what's happening and what they should do" and that "there's no harm is replying stop and the new messages will make that clear."

The responds producer said that it's been a week since she texted "stop" — so far so good.

Uber said it is still exploring other ways to provide consumers with enough details so they can understand what's happening, which is challenging in the space of a text. The company is considering other possible steps to take — which may include linking customers to a website for more information.

]]>
<![CDATA[Company Takes Table, Doesn't Return Owner's Calls]]>Wed, 22 Aug 2018 17:21:02 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/N5R+Table+082218.jpg

You’ve probably know someone who is an old soul.

Celeste Dancer is one of those people. She cherishes her family's possessions.

"I have been labeled the historian in my family. I have all the picture books, all the scrap books," Dancer said.

She recalled growing up in her grandma Jeanne's old farm house.

Grandma Jeanne taught Celeste how to write at her kitchen table. The two women were the only left-handed people in the family.

Celeste wanted the table to be the star of her large dining room in her new home in Fort Worth, so she looked to have it refinished.

"I wanted a professional to do it, someone I could trust to do it so I went online and did a search."

She said she found My Furniture Experts, who promised to pick up the table, refinish it and bring it back within two weeks for $520. There was no contract though.

"I checked about halfway through asked 'How's it going?' and got no response."

Celeste said eventually she got an answer saying they were behind, but would reach back out in a few days. She said days turned to weeks -- five weeks.

"It was actually my dad who said why don’t you call that NBC 5 guy," she said.

NBC 5 Responds reached the owner who told us he had the table and would get it back.

It happened the very next day.

"I come in this room and look out of the window and my stomach... I’m like...that's my table out on the curb," she recalled.

She was relieved and upset all over again.

"I'm telling you my stomach was in knots because I didn't know what condition it was in," Dancer said.

"It looks like it was trash on the curb, and somebody could have pulled up and put it on the back of their truck."

It was in pieces, the table top stripped, but it was all there and that's all Celeste really wanted.

We reached out to My Furniture Experts again to see why it took so long and why they just left the table on the curb. We called and emailed several times for more than a week and never heard back.

Celeste didn't have a contract outlining the company's responsibility. It's always something to look for when trusting someone with such an important item.

Celeste got her table refinished in her home by another company and ate her first family meal around the table.



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[North Texas Driver Concerned About Ford Focus Transmissions]]>Wed, 22 Aug 2018 07:28:27 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/ford-focus-transmission.jpg

A North Texas driver is raising concerns about his 2014 Ford Focus transmission, and he's not alone.

A few years ago, Brian Sirois became the proud owner of this 2014 Ford Focus.

"When I got it, I was very, very pleased. It was great," said Sirois.

He said the car was great on gas and had a smooth ride. But in May, the drive became anything but comfortable.

"The shifting started getting really rough and was bucking," he explained.

Sirois said that shortly after, his check engine light came on. So, he took the car to his mechanic.

"He told me other Ford Focuses of the 2014 had the same problem," Sirois recalled.

His car had 73,000 miles on it, but after learning this may not be an isolated issue, he decided to take it to a Ford dealership.

"Sure enough, they go look at it and they say, 'Yep, this is the same problem we've been seeing,'" he said.

The problem was with the transmission control module and the clutch. Sirois said he was told the control module would be covered, but he'd have to pay for the clutch out of pocket because his VIN wasn't on "the list."

After asking what the criteria was for deciding what VIN numbers were on the list, Sirois said the service manager couldn't answer the question — he just knew the car's VIN didn't qualify.

So, Sirois had to pay $1,700 out of pocket.

"So, when I got home, I figured I need to do some research on this," Sirois said. "Sure enough, I went online and it seems a lot of people have problems with the 2014 Focus."

A number of consumers on carcomplaints.com claim their 2014 Ford Focus is jerking, shuddering, vibrating and shaking, and the transmission is to blame.

There was also a class action lawsuit against Ford on behalf of consumers nationwide. The lawsuit claimed that Ford defectively designed its dual-clutch transmission in certain 2012 to 2016 Ford Focus vehicles.

"There's a history to this," Sirois said.

He wanted to know why certain 2014 Ford Focus transmission repairs were covered, and others weren't. He called NBC 5 Responds to get answers.

We've learned that Ford has a "Customer Service Program" that extends coverage on certain 2012 to 2015 Ford Focus vehicles with transmission clutch problems.

Ford told us they rely on "the data" to determine which vehicles are included in that program, but wouldn't go into detail about that data.

But Ford's corporate office did eventually give Sirois more information.

After we got involved, he got a call from a manager at Ford. He said the manager told him the VIN list had to do with where the Focus was manufactured and when it was made.

"It sounds like your net's not big enough because my car has exactly the same problem," said Sirois.

He said Ford then agreed to pay back half, which comes out to about $850.

Sirois said he's happy to have some money back, but hopes that Ford takes a closer look at its transmissions.

We heard from another woman in Denton who had a similar problem with her 2014 Ford Focus. Ford also agreed to cover half of her repairs as a gesture of goodwill, which came out to about $500.

Ford told NBC 5 the transmission problem is not a safety issue, and customers who are experiencing a problem should see their dealership or call ford customer service.

There's currently a settlement in the Ford class action lawsuit involving certain Focus transmissions. 

Click here for more information.



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[NBC 5 Responds After Phone And Internet Company Delays Install]]>Tue, 21 Aug 2018 17:40:20 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/Generic+cell+phone2.JPG

Moving is never easy, even the basics like getting power, water and internet connected can be difficult.

One family ran into issues getting their internet up and running in their new home.

David and Monica Swain were thrilled about their new home. They signed up for their phone and internet to be connected. They had a connection date of July 16 but say it had to be rescheduled to July 24.

Then they got another note saying there was an outage in their neighborhood and their service couldn’t be connected for another 30 days.

David works from home and couldn’t go that long without internet. He says he had trouble getting a straight answer as to why this outage applied to him, but all his neighbors were getting internet and phone service from the same company.

This is something NBC 5 Responds has covered before. Don’t get tied up in endless customer service issues.

If you’re not getting anywhere ask for elevated customer service. Most companies have them. The elevated customer service department got involved in this case and apologized for the issues and got the family connected in no time.

NBC 5 Responds helps with consumer issues and customer service problems, contact us anything time by clicking here.

]]>
<![CDATA[Update: NBC 5 Helps More Consumers in 'Water in Fuel' Fiasco]]>Tue, 21 Aug 2018 07:10:23 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/N5R__Bad_Fuel_6a.jpg

Back in May, we heard from several people who got gas at Mobil Gas Town in Springtown and not long after filling their tanks, their cars broke down.

This week, the NBC 5 Responds team learned those consumers have been reimbursed by the gas station.

When we first brought you this story, only one person, Sarah Lyons, had been paid back for the car repairs.

Now all seven consumers that we heard from have been reimbursed by that gas station, totaling out to more than $4,000 recovered for those consumers.

At the time, the consumers took their cars in to a mechanic and they learned that they had water in their gas tank, and they were furious. The repairs cost them hundreds of dollars out of pocket and they told us the owner of the gas station wouldn't take responsibility for the damage.

The NBC 5 Responds team obtained a copy of the gas station's inventory report from a former employee, which showed 64 gallons of water were found in the regular gas on March 5.

We contacted the gas station owner, who said it must have been a heavy rain day, but said they cleared out the tanks and everything was fine now.

]]>
<![CDATA[Woman Says Uber Driver Refused Service Due To Service Animal]]>Wed, 22 Aug 2018 15:03:57 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/N5R+-+Uber+Service+Dog.jpg

Ride-sharing services like Uber have changed the way we all get around when we don’t have a set of wheels.

For people with disabilities, the service has been a huge lifeline to help them get around.

A Pantego woman says her lifeline was cut when an Uber driver left her standing on the curb in the pouring rain due to a disagreement over her service dog.

Donna Mack was born two and half months premature with a visual impairment.

"I could read newsprint, but have to hold it really close," she said. 

At 12, she lost her vision entirely, but now runs a business, cares for her family and says getting around town has gotten much easier thanks to the the ride-sharing platform Uber.

A few weeks ago she had a business meeting and ordered an Uber to take her there. She reached out to the driver before he arrived.

"It was pouring rain. I told him about my disability, my dog was in a harness, she guided me from my front door to my driveway where he was waiting and he said the dog needs to get in the back," said Mack. 

"I said 'yeah no problem. We’re both going to get in the back.'"

She says the driver corrected her saying the dog would sit in the back and she would sit in the front.

"I was like 'really it’s ok' and then he said 'no the dog needs to go in the trunk.' I was just blown away and said, 'sir, that’s illegal.'"

She says without words she heard the car speed off.

Right on Uber’s website is a service dog policy that says:

"If Uber determines that a driver-partner knowingly refused to transport a rider with a service animal because of the service animal, the driver-partner will be permanently prevented from using the Driver App."

Mack filed a complaint with Uber. She was confident she and her service dog Wella were refused service, because of Wella. But an email from Uber said their driver was provided additional information regarding legal obligations and should we receive a second report of this nature their account may be subject to permanent deactivation.

Mack's complaint isn’t alone. A complaint filed by a Mansfield woman was sent to arbitration. It outlines several instances where she says Uber drivers denied her service because of her dog, including one last October when the Mansfield woman also said she was told her service dog had to ride in the back of the SUV which is what Mack assumes is where her driver wanted Wella to ride.

"It’s not good to separate us from our dog. That dog might be doing something else besides guiding me," she said.

An Uber spokesperson tells NBC 5, "We’re upset about the experience described and have reached out to both the rider and driver to look into this. Driver-partners who use the Uber app agree to accommodate riders with service animals and comply with all accessibility laws.”

They also told us they investigate all service animal denials speaking to the rider and driver and follow guidelines set up as part of a settlement to another lawsuit by the National Federation of the Blind.

Still Mack says Uber’s actions don’t appear to mirror their policy and she wants people with disabilities to know about her experience.

Uber’s policy does give Uber the sole discretion to decide if the driver violated the policy.

Uber's policy and website contradicts itself saying at some points that drivers will be banned after one violation and at other points says consequences come after two reports. 

Uber told us they look into whether the rider and the driver have a conversation about dog or the driver flat out refuses.

There are other platforms for people with disabilities to get around and find rides but obviously none as convenient and readily available as these ride sharing companies.



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Home Warranty Company Leaves Couple Without A/C for Months]]>Mon, 20 Aug 2018 10:50:42 -0500https://media.nbcdfw.com/images/213*120/AM+PKG+N5R+-+AC+Home+Warranty_2018-08-20-05-53-12.jpg

A Carrollton couple said their home warranty company left them without a working air conditioner for more than two months. The delays became unbearable, so they called NBC 5 Responds for back up.

Rickey Brown and Charles Cambon like to keep their house nice and cool during the summer months. 

When their air conditioner stopped working back in June, they noticed right away.

Their home warranty company, Home Warranty of America, sent a technician out a few days later.

"The compressor had shorted out and the evaporator cords needed to be replaced," Brown said.

Two weeks after the diagnosis, the couple said they were told the part would cost them $542 out of pocket, which wasn’t a problem for them. They just wanted their A/C back.

"It’s been a major inconvenience. We have three pets. I work out of my home," Cambon said.

The couple said Home Warranty of America told them they’d be contacted the next day to set up an installation date.

"No calls from them," said Brown. "We have to make the calls to find out that there’s no status update."

After weeks of living with no A/C, Brown said they were left with no choice but to move in with his in-laws.

"It’s been fun. We’ll just put it that way," Brown said.

Whenever they checked with Home Warranty of America, they said they were either told there was no update, or the part still hadn’t arrived.

"So, we’re still staying with his mother in Prosper," Brown explained.

As they approached month two of these living conditions, they couldn’t wait any longer, so they called NBC 5 Responds to step in.

We reached out to Home Warranty of America, and the company responded the next day.

The company told us, “Unfortunately in this situation the delay was due to an agent error, which we have corrected. Mr. Brown will have access to the parts necessary to fix his home’s air conditioner by no later than the end of the week. We sincerely apologize for this inconvenience, and will provide further training to the agent addressing this issue.”

The couple said it took the technicians a couple trips to get the A/C up and running again, but eventually, they were able to figure it out. 

They're now back in Carrollton, enjoying their own space: happy and cool, just the way they like it.

The couple said they were not charged for that $542 part.

We’ve received dozens of complaints about other home warranty companies and delayed A/C repairs.

So if you’re having a similar problem, here are Samantha Chatman's Solutions: 

  • Check your contract to see what is covered in your agreement and what’s not.
  • When you call your home warranty company, document everything and create a timeline.
  • If the delays end up being unreasonable, consider getting the repairs done on your own and send the warranty company your bill.
  • If you’re still having problems, click here.



Photo Credit: NBC 5]]>
<![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 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
This story uses functionality that may not work in our app. Click here to open the story in your web browser.]]>
<![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
This story uses functionality that may not work in our app. Click here to open the story in your web browser.]]>
<![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:

American

Delta

United

Southwest

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]]>