-- [As 2014 comes to a close, the ABC News Brian Ross Investigative Unit looks back on some major projects over the last year. This time, consumer columnist Stephanie Zimmermann, The ABC News Fixer, takes a look back at a year of helping out Americans who were in a bind.]
Whether they were moving across the country, dealing with health insurance or simply trying to avoid a scam, ABC News online readers, viewers and listeners turned to the ABC News Fixer for help.
James Jones of Big Pine Key, Fla., had the first problem of 2014 - and it was a doozie. Jones got a binding estimate of $4,400 from a mover who promised to take his stuff from Arizona to Florida. But the mover left some items behind and then increased the price by more than $2,000 after the truck was loaded.
That's a big no-no. Federal law says that if you're moving across state lines and have a written binding estimate, any changes to that document must be made before the goods are loaded. We were able to get a refund for Jones of $2,262.50. (If you're moving in the new year, check out protectyourmove.gov.)
We heard from two different guys who filled their cars with gas, only to discover as their engines seized up that the fuel was mixed with water. Not a pretty sight. In both cases, we were able to get refunds for the damages.
We also helped a little girl in Wisconsin receive medical treatment for an eye condition that can become permanent without corrective action, after her insurance denied coverage.
And there were many more problems and fixes involving canceled plane tickets, cell phone billing problems, mortgage payment miscalculations, gift card woes and defective appliances. We helped a man whose credit card company thought he was dead (we resurrected him) and a woman whose car was rammed by a pizza delivery driver whose restaurant refused to pay (we convinced them otherwise). Check out ABCNews.com/Fixer for past columns and consumer tips.
Some of the problems we received couldn't be fixed because they were outright scams. Thanks to readers and viewers who weren't afraid to tell their stories, we warned about the fake IRS agent scam, the phony computer support scam and a loan scam in which the victim is told to send money for processing but the loan never comes.
If the creativity of those fraudsters keeps up, we'll have many more reports to come.
An especially satisfying fix came late in the year, when we stepped in for several military families who complained that home alarm salesmen had made false promises about whether they could cancel if their military orders changed. The company said that either the homeowners or the salespeople had misunderstood the contract terms, but after we got involved, the company canceled the contracts, made refunds or removed old accounts from collections.
The Fixer hopes everyone has a wonderful holiday with no hassles, scams or rip-offs. But if you need us, we're here at ABCNews.com/Fixer.
- The ABC News Fixer
Got a consumer problem? The ABC News Fixer may be able to help. Click here to submit your problem online. Letters are edited for length and clarity.