Consumer News Archive - January 2019

We're committed to providing the latest and best news and information in order to help you become a better, more informed consumer.

Whether it's a safety recall affecting your vehicle, a recall for a product in your home, or a new scam that's making the rounds, we feature it here.

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January 2019

Instrument Cluster

Credit Card Rental Car Insurance Coverage Can Pick Up Where Traditional Insurance Coverage Stops

Credit cards typically offer some nice perks to get you to sign up, like cash back offers and rewards. But you, like many people, probably don't know that many credit cards also offer free rental car insurance. This rental insurance often kicks in automatically so long as you use that particular credit card to pay for the rental.

High-End Bathroom

Sewer Backup Endorsement From Your Homeowners or Renters Insurance Company Can Save Money Later

Most people don't know that homeowners insurance and renters insurance typically doesn't cover your losses if something causes sewage to back up into your home. These damages can add up to many tens of thousands of dollars quickly, but an optional sewer backup endorsement from your homeowners insurance or renters insurance company can save you a lot of money later.

IRS Scam

Income Tax Professionals Beware: Tax Scams Are Targeting Your Network and Your Customer Data

Income tax time is when identity thieves and scammers go into overdrive aiming to steal sensitive data from tax payers and tax professionals alike. Tax return preparers and other tax professionals must be mindful of scams that seek to steal personal and professional information or that allow remote control of computer systems.

Sick Person

As Cases of Cold and Flu Seeing Rise, Remember That Antibiotics Are Not Always the Answer

No one likes cold and flu season. When it hits, it usually hits hard and brings those stuffy noses, coughs and general yuckiness. When we or someone we love feels bad, we want to help things get better as soon as possible. Many of us might use leftover antibiotics or rush to the doctor to get some. But this may be doing more harm than good.

Credit Cards

The Fair Credit Reporting Act Guarantees You a Number of Different Rights and Protections

You might already know that you have a right to a free annual credit reportcredit from each of the three major credit bureaus. But a federal law, the Fair Credit Reporting Act gives you additional rights and protections. The North Carolina Consumers Council helped to pass this federal law as a consumer protection.

Piggy Bank

The Auto Loan You Choose Can Cause Your Auto Insurance Premiums to Increase Unexpectedly

Are you looking to buy a new car or to refinance your current auto loan? We often think about how a car's age and options affects insurance rates. But we never think about how the loan affects them. A loan will certainly mean you have to maintain collision coverage. But some lenders require much more than that state's minimum coverage limits and could end up costing you a lot of money.

Gift Cards

Here's How You Can Cash in on Those Unwanted Gift Cards You Got for Christmas

People often receive gift cards from people they don't know too well. While the thought is nice, there's a good chance it will be to a store you never visit. Even if the gift card is for your favorite store, there's a chance you'll forget about it. If you have an unwanted gift card, you have a few options for cashing in.

Ethernet Cable

Important Things to Keep in Mind When You're Looking to Get a New Wireless Router for Your Home

Your router is probably the most important piece of equipment in your home network. The router you choose can make the difference between having a smooth connection or one that is constantly dropping your connection. So the next time you're in the market for a new router, consider the different options so you can choose the best router for your needs.

Dog Car Window

Traveling With Pets Can Be Hectic, but These Tips Can Help Make It More Enjoyable and Safer

It's always a difficult decison to make: do we take our pets on a family trip or do we leave them behind? When traveling with our pets, we have to make a number of sacrificies in order to make sure they can go where we go. But it's a little more difficult than tossing the dog in the car. You have to take into account a number of pet safety considerations when traveling with a furry friend.

Car Lot

How Accurate Are CARFAX Vehicle History Reports And The Various Types of Data They Contain?

If you've ever purchased or looked into purchasing a used car, chances are you've either seen or at least heard of CARFAX, a service that provides historical information on used vehicles. But just how reliable is the information that CARFAX reports provide?

Rolled Dollar Bills

Common Red Flags That Will Prompt the IRS to Pull Your Income Tax Return Aside for an Audit

You've probably seen ads guaranteeing that certain things will ensure you won't get audited by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) at tax time. Want to know a secret? You can never completely avoid the possibility of an audit. The overall number of taxpayers chosen for an audit is usually less than one percent. But there are steps you can take to make an income tax audit even less likely.

Car Mirror

Car License Plate Registration Renewal Late Fees in North Carolina Causing Confusion

Vehicle owners have been seeing unexpected additional charges when renewing their vehicle registrations. While late fees for vehicle registration had been planned for some time, some consumers have either missed or forgotten about the changes. To add further confusion, consumers still think there is a registration grace period.


What You Need to Know About North Carolina Lemon Law if You Are Having Repeat Car Problems

North Carolina Lemon Law permits the first owner of a brand new motor vehicle that was purchased or leased in North Carolina and weighs less than 10,000 pounds to petition the manufacturer for a replacement vehicle or a full refund if one of three conditions is met during the first two years of ownership, or 24,000 miles, whichever comes first.

Tax Return

Think Again if You're Thinking About Getting an Advance on Your Income Tax Refund This Year

If you're short on money and know that you will be getting a tax refund this year, you may be tempted to get an advance on the refund. A tax refund advance, also called Refund Anticipation Loans or Refund Anticipation Checks, is a short-term loan based upon your estimated tax refund. But the fees and interest rates, which are often 200% or higher, should make you think twice.

Car Tire

12 and 15-passenger Vans Are Convenient for Groups of People, but Have Unique Safety Issues

15-passenger and 12-passenger vans are very popular on our roadways and make it easy to move large numbers of people. But these vehicles have unique safety considerations and can be more deadly than a typical vehicle, especially with low tire pressures or inexperienced drivers.

Dog With Treat

Most Human Medications, Including Common Pain Relievers, Are Dangerous or Even Deadly for Pets

It's torture watching our pets in pain and we will do anything to give relief as soon as possible. While it may be tempting to use people medications on our pets, it could be dangerous or even deadly. Pets react differently than people to many things, so it's important to know what's harmful to pets and to see a veterinarian if your pet is sick or in pain.

Car Repair

Getting Money for an Unwanted Car When a Dealership Won't Pay You a High Trade-In Value

It happens to everyone at one point or another. An old car that provided years of reliable driving was pushed to the side of the driveway in favor of a new model. This often happens when we want a backup vehicle or if the dealership's trade-in offer was abysmally low. If you have an old clunker that isn't worth much, you still might be able to make some money by donating or recycling it.

Key in Front Door

Mortgage Assistance and Foreclosure Relief Scams Prey on Those Affected by Government Shutdown

As the longest-ever government shutdown rolls on, people are having to resort to more and more extreme measures to make ends meet. Scammers, unfortunately, know this and are making the rounds to take advantage of unsuspecting homeowners. That's why it's important to make sure you are aware of mortgage assistance and foreclosure relief scams and the tactics scammers use to steal whatever money you still have.

Home Repairs

When Making Home Improvements, What Should You Keep in Mind to Get the Best Resale Value?

When we are making home improvements, we want to get the biggest bang for our buck. But we also want to make sure that any upgrades we do will not only increase the value of the home but increase it much more than the amount we spent to make them. While every home is different, some home improvements typically offer reliably high returns when it comes to resale.

Dealership Service

Don't Be Too Hasty to Agree When a Car Dealer Service Department Recommends Services

Dealership service departments have a bad reputation, which is why many people don’t get routine maintenance performed there unless they have to for a warranty repair. While the technicians (hopefully) know your car better than the local mechanic, you often spend more money for this expertise. But some of this extra money comes from dealer recommended services, most of which you probably don't need.

Jet with Passengers

Basic Economy Airfare: Here's What You Should Know Before Booking Your Next Flight

Don't be so quick to snag that discount airfare the next time you are booking a flight. You might find yourself spending more money then you intended to spend. Many airlines have embraced basic economy fares to provide flyers with cheaper tickets. But a basic enconomy ticket has a lot of drawbacks and catches, which could leave you spending more.

Gas Station

Here Are Some Things You Can Do Now to Get the Best Gas Mileage on Your Car or Truck

Looking for ways to save money on fuel costs? These days, it seems that everyone is trying to stretch a gallon of gasoline a few extra miles. Some things you do improve mileage while others either don't improve it or end up making it worse. Want to save money by conserving fuel? While not all vehicles are exactly the same, these things apply uniformly to all vehicles.

Mall Store

How and When You Are Allowed to Cancel a Sale Under the Cooling Off Rule

Far too many people are confused about their rights when it comes to cancelling a sale. Some people say you have three days to cancel a sale or return a product for a full refund. Others say seven days. Some will say that you have no right to cancel a sale and that all purchases are final. So what's the truth?

IRS Scam Alert

Tax Time Is the Perfect Time for Scammers to Steal Your Identity and Tax Refund

It's that tme of the year again. Tax documents are pouring in from banks and employers while we're all collecting receipts and trying to get an idea of how much we will owe the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). But just becuase we're at the beginning of the year, it doesn't mean we shouldn't be watching for scams, especially those wanting deposit changes for tax refunds or account updates.

Money Rolls

What Will Really Happen If You Don't Pay Your Federal Income Taxes?

That thought crosses our minds every year at tax time when we start writing that check. What would happen if I didn't pay my federal income taxes? We never really find out, though, since we always end up paying. But what would really happen if we didn't pay up to the federal government? What are the potential consequences?

Fancy Bathroom

Are Tankless Water Heaters a Worthwhile Investment, or Just a Lot of Hot Water?

Is a tankless water heater a good investment? A lot more goes into making the decision to replace your bulky water heater with a slim tankless model than a simple yes or no. Even though it can pay itself quickly, a tankless water heater may not be best for you. Some households, for instance, may have a demand that exceeds the water heater's capabilities.

Credit Cards Pocket

Keeping a Copy of What's in Your Wallet Can Help You Recover if It Is Even Lost or Stolen

Have you ever lost a credit card only to find that you don't know how to contact the bank? You might be traveling far from home or might not know which banks to contact. But there's something simple you can do to ensure that you can contact your financial institutions quickly in the event of a lost or stolen wallet, especially if you have a lot of cards.

Sick Child Sneeze

Neti Pots Can Bring Relief but Also Serious Sinus Infections if Not Used and Cleaned Properly

Whether it's the dry winter air that makes your sinuses irritated or the seasonal allergies that wreak havoc on your breathing, nasal irrigation can bring soothing relief. Among the popular devices on the market is the neti pot, which looks like a tea pot and allows water to flow through and rinse your sinuses. But these devices, when not used properly, can cause some nasty infections.

Puppy in Grass

Winter Weather Means You Need to Take Extra Care of Your Dog's Skin and Coat

Even though we've had periods of spring weather already this winter, the cold temperatures will be here for a while. As your dog spends more time warm indoors during the winter months, it can be easy to let regular grooming slide. However, it's especially important during this time of year to continue with a grooming routine that will keep your pup healthy and comfortable.

Winter Road

Freezing Water Pipes Are a Big Problem in the South, but You Can Take Simple Steps to Prevent Them

It's never too late to safeguard your plumbing against freezing temperatures, especially with the wild temperature swings we experience here in North Carolina. Taking a little bit of time and spending a few dollars can save you thousands of dollars in preventable repairs down the road.

Child and Mom Beach

You Can Claim an Adoption Tax Credit to Help Offset Expenses if You Adopted a Child in 2018

If you adopted a child in 2018, you probably had to spend a lot of money to do it. Child adoption is an expensive and fulfilling journey, and the Adoption Tax Credit is there to help you offset some of the costs involved in the adoption process. The Adoption Tax Credit can give new parents up to $13,840 in a tax credit for each qualifying adopted child.

Toyota Steering Wheel

Internal Fluid Leak in Brake Master Cylinder Prompts Toyota to Recall 2018 2019 Tacoma Vehicles

Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing (Toyota) is recalling certain 2018-2019 Toyota Tacoma vehicles. Improper machining of the brake master cylinder may result in internal damage of one of the seals, affecting brake performance. A reduction of braking performance can cause a crash.


Thinking of Joining a Gym, Health Club, or Fitness Center? There Are Some Things You Should Know

Are better health and personal fitness on your to-do list this year? Is purchasing a new gym membership part of that plan? Many consumers across the country join a gym to lose weight, get in shape, or just to feel better. Unfortunately, many of them end up unhappy with both the physical and financial results of that decision.

Wells Fargo Logo

North Carolina Settles With Wells Fargo for $575 Million Over Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices

Attorney General Josh Stein has announced that Wells Fargo will pay $575 million to resolve claims that the bank violated state consumer protection laws. North Carolina’s share of the settlement is $15,174,791.40. To date, this settlement represents the most significant engagement by state attorneys general involving a national bank without a federal law enforcement partner.

Ford F-150 Assembly Line

Ford Recalls Various Pickup Truck Models for Fires Related to Engine Block Heaters

Ford Motor Company (Ford) is recalling certain 2015-2019 Ford F-150 and 2017-2019 Ford F-250 Super Duty, F-350 Super Duty, F-450 Super Duty, and F-550 Super Duty pick-up trucks equipped with an engine block heater. Water and contaminants may get into the block heater cable's splice connector causing corrosion and damage.

cold home

Consumer Tips: Save Money on Your Home Heating Costs This Winter

It's a fact of life. Your heating bill will go up as the temperature outside fall. But with just a little bit of work, you can save some serious cash this winter on home heating costs. Consider these tips to help you save money this winter.