tv NBC Bay Area We Investigate NBC November 13, 2021 6:30pm-7:01pm PST
. blane workie: we wanna help. and we feel good when we're able to get consumers their money back. chris: we ask and answer a thorny travel question. can a host put a camera in your vacation rental? maybe. we'll show you where they're allowed and not, plus, how to get a refund if you find a spying eye, also-- john lipschitz: well, i'm greatly appreciative of nbc and what you've done. chris: we help a covid survivor battle for long-haul care. his hospital and health insurance weren't communicating, even though they're the same company. chris: good evening, and welcome to our nbc bay area "responds" special. i'm consumer investigator chris chmura. since we started "responds" here in 2016, we've helped viewers like you save or get back more than $5.7 million right there on the tote board, and we do that by speaking up when viewers aren't
getting anywhere on their own. well, tonight we're gonna share some of our more recent stories, how we helped, and what we learned along the way that can help you too. one type of complaint we've seen over and over again lately, air travel, and it doesn't look like things are gonna get better anytime soon. there's a possible collision course at the country's airports this holiday season with passengers caught in the middle. if you're flying over the holidays, i have some advice to highlight pitfalls and help navigate detours. female: i lost 2 days of work because of this. chris: passengers are learning firsthand. female: they don't have flights available. chris: the airlines' covid rebound-- male: just seems like a mess. chris: --is turbulent. female: everybody is just on standby. chris: today the tsa is screening almost as many people per day as before the pandemic, but the bureau of labor statistics says 34,000 fewer airline workers are on the job. david slotnick: they're short staffed as everyone is post-pandemic. chris: analyst david slotnick says airlines are flying with zero wiggle room. one staffing shortfall, small storm,
or computer glitch can ripple nationwide. david: they just end up having to cancel everything. chris: august, spirit stumbled. october, southwest bumbled. early november, american fumbled. each time passengers left stuck. male: never got any notification. male: like, how does that happen? chris: tight schedule, short staffing, plus, a possible cameo from unpredictable, wintery weather. add it all up, a gathering storm at the holidays. female: it's out of our control, and it's horrible. chris: we want to help. if your flight is canceled, do you know when the next few flights leave? you should. research flight schedules now. arm yourself with info about several backup flights. when your flight's delayed or canceled, remember you're basically competing with everyone else on your flight for any remaining seats on later flights. it's a rebooking race. here's how to win. immediately try rebooking yourself on the airline website or app. some airlines like delta even let you switch dates
and airports, but fair warning; not everyone can use self service. for example, united told us you have to work directly with an agent when you fly with a pet or service animal, you're plus-sized and booked two seats, a minor is flying alone or you're taking an infant overseas on your lap. if your ticket requires an agent's help, you might need to get in line at the airport, but don't just stand there. work the phone. some airlines will text you. try that. also, call them. it's possible someone will answer before you reach the counter. chris: also, use social media to your advantage. airline agents on there have power to get things done and they might respond to you faster than picking up the phone. in my case, i recently sent american airlines a direct message on twitter, got a response 1 hour 37 minutes later. that is not great, but it is far faster than the 4 hours the call center said it would take to call me back. chris: american told us it's "handle time." the time passengers spend on the line with an agent
has been up overall this year. also, it says its added thousands of reservations agents and is still hiring. during an airline meltdown, you might end up with unexpected expenses. so what about travel insurance? will they pay you back? maybe. it depends on the policy. suzanne morrow: there's a lot out there to look at. chris: suzanne morrow at insuremytrip recommends travel insurance that covers flight issues plus hotel and rental car costs. she warned us airline travel insurance policies might be bare bones. suzanne: that's the biggest thing to keep in mind. is that literally it's just covering your airline tickets. chris: say you plan, say you protect yourself and yet an airline leaves you stranded. afterward, you can ask the transportation department to intervene. blane: we wanna help. and we feel good when we're able to get consumers their money back. chris: since the pandemic started, a record number of passengers have complained to the dot. blane: the volume continues to be high. susan mcconnell: i was, like, super frustrated. chris: susan mcconnell wrote in from stanford.
an airline canceled her flight then ignored her refund request for a year. susan: no response to email. no response to the phone call. just dead silence on there and-- chris: two weeks after susan submitted her complaint, the dot pinged her carrier. susan: the next day the airline said, "we're bumping you up in the queue for a refund." chris: in the end, susan got ten grand back in full. to file a dot airline complaint, pick up your smartphone, snap this qr code right here. that's the easy part. be prepared to explain what happened and when. uncle sam will also want to see your documentation, which i'm sure you have. all right, we're gonna stay on the topic of travel and focus on vacation rentals. your host might be watching you or listening in or both. so we decided to look at how to look for spying eyes and ears. chris: if you think cameras are totally forbidden from vacation rentals, i'm afraid you're wrong. your host might be able to have a camera outside the house and
inside some parts of the house. let's look at the ground rules. vrbo permits cameras outside. it says, "surveillance devices such as security cameras and smart doorbells are allowed, but not inside." airbnb has different rules. it says, "we prohibit any security cameras and other recording devices that are in or that observe the interior of certain private spaces such as bedrooms and bathrooms." cameras that are not in certain private spaces might be allowed. airbnb says, "we require hosts to disclose all security cameras and other recording devices in their listings." and that's the first place you should look for a camera, in the listing. look under house rules. say there's no camera listed there, message the host anyway with a question like this: "where do you use security cameras?" if you get a cagey answer, let the booking company know about it. if the host says there is a security camera that's not disclosed in the booking, airbnb says you get your money back.
what about smart speakers like google home or amazon a-l-e-x-a? you're welcome. the host could easily use them to eavesdrop. so are they allowed? both airbnb and vrbo said yes, provided they're disclosed in the listing. if you're not happy about that, ask about unplugging them during your stay. once you arrive at a property, you can take a couple of steps to scan for cameras. look for obvious ones, but also look for things like nanny cams and baby monitors, which also might be watching you. many surveillance cameras connect to the internet using home wi-fi. you can download an app like fing to see all the devices that are connected to the home wi-fi. it might also help you identify what's what and what's currently streaming to the internet. fing is free to load, though you'll possibly see in-app purchases. you can try to take a house completely offline. find the router and unplug it, but first ask the host because sometimes security systems and home phone require internet access. you can also buy a handheld camera detector for anywhere
from $25 to $100. they claim to sniff out cameras just by walking around a room. before you buy one, though, read reviews and make sure the model you choose does what you expect. say you find a camera that's not supposed to be there, what should you do? both airbnb and vrbo said contact them immediately to investigate and make things right. you can also contact a lawyer and law enforcement, especially if you think a camera was intentionally concealed to invade your privacy. chris: coming up next, documenting every fork, knife, spoon, and well, everything else you own. we'll explain why it's so critically important during fire season and we'll show you how to do it properly. also, thieves are chopping the catalytic converters out of people's cars right there in their driveways. we'll explain why. and before you go to bed tonight, we'll help you protect your car from a $2,000 or $3,000 heist.
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chris: welcome back. one thing i harp on relentlessly is how everyone who has a homeowner's or renter's insurance policy really needs limited availability in select areas. to do a home inventory, basically a list of everything you own ideally with photos or video. a few minutes recording with your smartphone now could save you thousands of dollars later. female: this is what i have, a pile of ash. chris: many people whose homes burned in the north bay in 2017 will tell you insurance companies didn't pay their rebuilding money until they provided an item-by-item list
of what burned. female: they want every single thing you ever had, every cup and saucer, every spoon and fork. chris: making that list was heartbreaking, time consuming, and often came up short of a full payout. nicole ganley: if you've lost everything, there's no way you're gonna remember everything you have. chris: nicole ganley with the american property casualty insurance association says you can avoid that frustration after a fire by doing a home inventory now. use your smartphone. record from room to room. open every closet, every drawer. ganley says there's more reason than ever to do a home inventory today. nicole: we forget all the stuff we have. and we have more stuff because we've all been stuck at home for a year. so just make a home video because it just will make recovery so much easier. chris: many insurance companies have step-by-step instructions on their websites. free apps are available too. we even found a north bay startup that'll do it for you for a fee based on your home or apartment size. chris: we are committed to sharing step-by-step help just like that with you on tons of topics,
and that's why we created a series of "how-to videos." we posted dozens of episodes: finance, insurance, privacy, food, and so much more. you can watch all our how-to videos on demand right now on our website, our streaming channels, and our youtube page. just look for the how-to playlist. straight ahead, a new breed of car thieves. they don't take your whole car, just your critical $2,000 or $3,000 catalytic converter. we'll show you how to deter those crooks next.
chris: welcome back. is your driveway a goldmine for thieves? well, cops are saying yes. fast-moving criminals are stealing catalytic converters from the underbelly of people's cars. they are boring parts, really, they help control emissions, but they are hot on the black market. so we're going to show you which cars are targeted most and how to protect your car. chris: usually, janet's toyota prius is quiet, but one morning it was not. janet: started right up, made a horrible racket. chris: turns out someone had gotten under her car and cut out her catalytic converter, a $2,700 part. janet: i am surprised that maybe neighbors didn't see anything. chris: she's not alone. here in pleasanton, police say thieves have stolen 70 people's catalytic converter so far this year-- a sudden spike. tujague: and this is not only pleasanton, not only california, not only nationwide, but worldwide. chris: he's right. the national insurance crime bureau warns that catalytic converters are a target everywhere.
male: since 2019, we've seen a 300% increase in the theft of catalytic converters. california and texas are your two top states in the united states that are seeing these thefts increase. chris: so why take your catalytic converter? there's precious metal inside. shady recyclists will buy them in bulk. so thieves can pocket hundreds of dollars for each one. male: the supply chain and the mining of these precious metals is difficult, which has caused the price to go up exponentially over the last year. chris: if at this point you're seeing easy money and thinking of stealing a catalytic converter, allow officer tujague a word or two from the penal code. tujague: it's a misdemeanor offense, and you will go to jail. chris: considering catalytic converters can cost upwards of three grand, tujague told us you need to protect yourself. tujague: and they are targeting specific vehicles. chris: which ones? hybrids. ford f150 pickups, honda accords, and honda elements. neither ford nor honda responded to us. police say the toyota prius like janet's is thieves' top choice because the converter is easy to access.
in a statement, toyota told us catalytic converter theft is an industry-wide challenge. it also said preventive measures can protect owners. here's what you can do. first, park smart. aim for well-led garages and driveways, ideally with obvious cameras. also, check your insurance policy. do you have comprehensive coverage that's generally needed to cover a stolen converter? to deter a thief, you can etch your license plate number, driver's license number, or phone number into your converter. etchers cost about 20 bucks, so you can do it yourself, but some law enforcement agencies etch for free, or you could ask a mechanic to do it for you. if you want more protection, officer tujague recommends installing locks on your converter. they sell online for $100 to $400. some are diy. others require a mechanic's help. finally, a muffler shop can weld a rebar cage around your converter. tujague said a metal cage should stop a thief. the rebar will run you a couple 100 bucks. tujague: it's absolutely worth the money.
chris: we wondered if car insurance companies would help cover the cost of locks or a cage since you're cutting their risk. nicb said, not typically. janet: i don't understand why insurance companies don't cover the cage or one of those devices that makes it harder or impossible for them to take it. chris: ultimately, what happened to janet? she's lucky. she has comprehensive coverage on her car. so she got a new converter. janet: oh, it was covered in full with no deductible. chris: she fears thieves will take her catalytic converter again. her intuition is right. police tell us many hybrid drivers are repeat victims. janet: now i'm really thinking about just selling the car because, you know, i don't wanna keep dealing with it. chris: and it keeps happening over and over. janet's alarm didn't go off, why? her battery was weak or dead because she's working from home and not driving much. well, aaa told us lots of people are in the same boat. so here's what you can do. make a habit of driving a couple minutes each week, especially if you own a hybrid, to keep your battery alive
and your alarm on. we tackle all sorts of insurance issues. if you have one, you can tell us about it at nbcbayarea.com, just click the "responds" option from the main menu, or you can call us, 888-996-tips. when we come back, a covid survivor's healthcare headache. when he got the run around, he asked us to step in. we did. we'll show you what happened next right after this break.
but that's not always the end of your health struggle. call today or ask your agent many people say they are still fighting ongoing symptoms and their medical insurance, like one man we met in the east bay. he's not alone. millions of people have tested positive for covid-19, now an unknown number of people. is it thousands, millions maybe? they're living with long-term side effects. so two big questions, who treats them and who pays? john: i used to be very active and involved in every drill. chris: soccer coach john lipschitz has been sidelined. this past december, he got covid-19. john: it was unlike anything i've ever felt. chris: surviving covid was one hurdle that turned into a health marathon. john: i thought i was getting better, and then i never did. chris: john says he has ongoing fatigue, brain fog, breathing trouble, and weakness that all limit his coaching. john: i just wanna wake up and have a day where i don't go, "oh god, this hurts so much, or oh, this or that, or--" chris: but it's every day. john: every day without fail. chris: john is what many call a covid-19 long-hauler.
he applauds his hmo, kaiser, for excellent care while he was initially sick. everything was fully covered, including three er visits, but lately he's feeling let down. john says his kaiser doctor recommended a specialist at a covid long-haul clinic, but kaiser didn't have one. so in february, john asked to go out of network. for the next 5 months, a paperwork shuffle. he said he'd get approval from his kaiser family doctor and a kaiser disease doctor, but then the kaiser insurance arm would step in. john: they would get-- refer me back. so i was in a loop. chris: what should kaiser have done? john: kaiser should have listened to their physicians and should have allowed me to go outside of kaiser. lakshmi santosh: this is not an uncommon story. it's a story that i've heard a lot. chris: dr. lakshmi santosh is medical director at ucsf's post-covid-19 clinic. her team has treated more than 300 long-haulers. dr. santosh says many covid-19 survivors need specialized care. she predicts insurance companies would save money if long-haulers
could see long-haul specialists instead of bouncing from doctor to doctor. lakshmi: if i were to wave a magic wand and, you know, be in charge of a health plan, i think it would be wise to look at those cost savings of concentrating care in situations like this. chris: so are health insurance companies covering treatment specifically for long-haul covid? the group that represents them, america's health insurance plans, said it's basically a work-in-progress. "efforts are underway to help the health care system identify and code for long-term covid." but john is feeling lousy now. john: i had some good weeks. april was pretty good. chris: so he asked us to speak up for him. we did. kaiser then approved his referral to the out-of-network clinic. john: the last thing i want to do is be on tv talking about how weak i have felt, how hard this has been on my family, but i will tell you, i'm greatly appreciative of nbc and what you've done. chris: kaiser declined to discuss specifics of john's case.
in a general statement, it said, "as more has been learned about this virus, our practices have evolved." and kaiser permanente has recently created its own physician-led group to address the specialized needs of long-term covid-19 patients and coordinate their care. if you survived covid-19, but now fell ongoing symptoms, john says your goal should be to demand specialized care. if you're denied, here's how he'd coach you. john: keep pushing and saying, "and if i disagree, who do i go to?" and my next thing was i was gonna stand with a sign in front of the hospital until someone saw me. chris: but he didn't have to do that, thankfully. any time you feel your health insurance company isn't treating you fairly or ignoring you, you can file a complaint with the state, the department of managed health care; the phone number right here, 888-466-2219. here's the main thing. the insurance companies are required by law to respond to the dmhc, so you should get an answer.
all right, you can also contact us. if you have any consumer complaints and need a hand, go to nbcbayarea.com, then click the "responds" option from the main menu. when you're there, you can tell us your story, you can upload photos and videos and documents, everything that you think we need to make a really strong case, to contact the company, and get you your money back. if you wanna pick up the phone, you can. the number is 888-996-tips. we respond to every call and every email. that's it for us this evening. we're glad you joined us for our nbc bay area "respond" special. i'm chris chmura. have a great night.
ok. hush little baby...don't say a word... but if slow upload speeds turns your goodnight call into an accidental horror movie... can you hear me? shut it down. just remember. you're not a bad mom. you just need better internet. at&t fiber delivers faster upload speeds for more reliable video calls. get at&t fiber, plans starting at $35 a month for a year. limited availability in select areas. call 1.877.only.att.
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