Beware callers who threaten visit from sheriff's office
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A woman received a call last month from a man who threatened to have her arrested for failing to repay a loan.
She said the man identified himself as "Kevin Luitz" and claimed to be an attorney who represented Cash Advance, a company that makes short-term, "payday loans" for emergency situations. He said the loan had to be repaid immediately or sheriff's deputies would be dispatched to arrest her.
The woman, who had taken out a payday loan three weeks earlier, thought the caller was legitimate and used Western Union to wire $800 to someone named Jana Lee Kent in Pittsburgh. When the so-called attorney called her the next day from a San Francisco area code and told her to wire another $800 because the payment had not been received, the woman did what she should have done in the first place -- she contacted the office of Allegheny County Sheriff William P. Mullen.
The sheriff's office told her she had been scammed.
It said it will never arrest anyone based on a civil matter such as the one she described. If the man contacted her again, she was advised to tell him she would meet him at the sheriff's office to make the transaction.
Mr. Mullen's office urged her to report the scam to the state Bureau of Consumer Protection in the attorney general's office at 1-800-441-2555 and to the postal service at 1-888-877-7644.
Scams and scammers come in all shapes and sizes.
The Better Business Bureau this week warned consumers to be careful in their dealings with the operators of storage units.
It said it received more than 1,000 complaints from across the country last year from people who weren't able to access their storage units after paying a deposit, had goods damaged in the storage units or had their belongings removed from the units.
The bureau told consumers to do their homework before they sign on the dotted line. And they can do so by "understanding seven major factors" before selecting a temporary storage facility.
• Access: Confirm the hours and the fees, if any, for accessing your unit. Is there room to park your car or truck nearby? Does the facility provide dollies or hand trucks to help you move your belongings in and out of the unit with relative ease?
• Climate: Consider the general climate and whether your belongings might be subjected to mold or water damage. If that possibility exists, consider an environmentally controlled unit.
• Contract: Get everything in writing -- the size and location of the unit, options such as climate control, termination regulations, insurance coverage and payment terms. Give the facility your home telephone and/or cell phone numbers and email address so you can be contacted if there is a problem with the unit or your payment.
• Cost: Obtain written estimates from at least three facilities. Most will want to look at your items before making an estimate. In addition to the monthly rental fee, there may be fees for storage preparation, padding, packing or transportation and fees for electricity, insect control and insurance.
• Insurance: Be sure your items are insured from theft, fire or other damage. If the facility doesn't cover basic insurance and if your homeowner's insurance policy doesn't cover self-storage, find an insurance company that offers it.
• Safety: Buy a heavy-duty lock for the unit. Ask if the facility has surveillance cameras and what it does to keep strangers off the property. Be sure to get contact information to reach someone during and after business hours in case of an emergency.
• Size: What size units are available, is there a maximum weight limit and can they be packed from floor to ceiling?
Finally, the Better Business Bureau urges consumers to pay careful attention to their monthly bills or credit card statements to be sure they are current on their payments.
If they aren't, the unit will be considered abandoned and the contents put up for auction.
Consumers also should review their rights under the Pennsylvania Self-Service Storage Facility Act.
The bureau said consumers looking for a reputable storage facility should visit www.bbb.org or call 1-877-267-5222 for general information, industry tips, lists of accredited storage businesses and business reviews about them.
• Here's a tip from Heloise, the syndicated newspaper columnist, that ran in her May 22 column, Hints from Heloise:
"If you truly want to know a company's dedication to its customers, give a call to customer service before you purchase a product or use its services. You can get a good idea of how helpful the company is, and can feel good about where your money is going."
First Published June 21, 2012 4:54 am