Scammed? Arizona Republic Call to Action Volunteers Can Help

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Since the start of 2019, the Arizona Republic Call For Action team has saved consumers over $400,000 from wrongful bills, scams and payment errors.

Its team of journalists and more than 20 volunteers are available to answer phone calls and emails from consumers who have been scammed or who need help. The team investigates the problem and helps find a solution.

About 70% of cases the team has closed so far this year have involved issues with retailers, warranties, telecom providers, healthcare providers, contractors, banks, auto repairs and insurance.

So far this year, the team has helped a Glendale teacher who was billed for two identical CT scans, a moving company that refused to deliver furniture without additional payment, a wedding video company that closed its doors without giving couples their priceless memories and a home warranty company that used loopholes to deny services.

How to get help

The service is free, confidential and available to individuals in Arizona.

Fill out a form at heretohelpaz.azcentral.com, text HereToHelpAZ to 51555, or call 602-444-2255 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesday through Friday to speak with a Call for Action volunteer.

Confusion over county taxes

Jim Boerner, a disabled veteran, was living in a mobile home when Maricopa County officials mistakenly sold it at a state auction.

Boerner had fallen behind on his property taxes, but then paid them. The county recognized the payment only too late.

Maricopa County officials raced to figure out what to do after the Arizona Republic’s call to action brought the story to international attention.

The case went to court and a judge ruled that Boerner could keep his house.

“I’m really happy,” Boerner said shortly after hearing the news. “(I feel) relief and recovery here from just about every angle you can think of.”

A colossal health bill

When the Brunner family woke up one Christmas morning, they had no intention of going to the hospital. But a sore throat turned into a critical respiratory infection for the Brunners’ 4-year-old son, Ezra.

His parents called an ambulance to take Ezra to the nearest hospital in Camp Verde, but Verde Valley Medical Center did not have a pediatric unit.

Doctors recommended an airlift to a hospital in Flagstaff, and they were then charged $47,000 for the 15-minute flight. The owner of the helicopter ride, Air Methods, charged the Brunners more than their rates listed online, and the Brunners’ insurer, UnitedHealthcare, did not agree to pay more.

The Brunners called Call for Action and within days Air Methods and UnitedHealthcare began working on reducing the Brunners’ bill.

An unfinished installation job

Jerry Beavers ordered two awnings from Scottsdale-based Awnings by Design. He paid half the total price up front, charging $6,774 to his credit card.

Then he stopped hearing from the company.

They rarely answered his calls and took longer than promised to start installing the awning. That’s when he called the Arizona Republic Call to Action Team to help him.

In mid-March, the company requested the other half of the payment, but Beavers did not pay it. Later, he walked past the business and saw that it had closed.

With the help of azcentral’s Call to Action volunteers, the Beavers reached out to awning manufacturing company, Eclipse Manufacturer.

He was able to pay them directly to supply and install his awning at a reduced rate. The awning was installed just in time to block out the summer sun.

Problem with a mobile phone bill

Every December, when temperatures begin to drop in Ontario, Michael Cullen and his wife begin their three-day journey to Mesa.

When Cullen, 70, spent his first winter in Arizona eight years ago, he bought a pay phone to use during the five months he and his wife spend in the states each season.

Before returning to Canada in April, Cullen pays $100 annually into his phone account to keep the number for the following year.

Last April, the Cullens deposited $60 and a $45 gift card into the account before leaving town. But when they came back to the United States this time, the phone didn’t work. It turned out that a problem in the system had not recognized the two payments totaling $105.

Cullen lost his $105, the phone number he had had for eight years, and he had to make new arrangements for a phone.

It was then that he contacted Call for Action. The volunteers filed a full complaint with Verizon on Cullen’s behalf.

The next day he heard from Verizon. Verizon credited his account with all the money he lost.

“You had immediate action and went to the guy who could really do something for me,” Cullen said. “Everything was great.”