7 On Your Side: 7 top consumer traps of 2016 and the easy ways to beat them

NEW YORK (WABC) -- 2016 was a record year for Nina Pineda and 7 On Your Side. All year we fought for you, helping get back more than $1.5 million of your money.

But as the new year approaches it's time for a resolution you'll want to keep, and avoid falling into a costly consumer trap.

Consumer trap #7:

Look alike websites fooled viewers into sending away thousands, getting nothing in return. For example, a shopping site that looks identical to Walmart's but didn't deliver, and one masquerading as Airbnb.

A recent college grad blew her savings wiring cash to a criminal in Spain who set up a fake Airbnb payment page for a sweet one-bedroom in Jersey City. The lesson? Always check websites directly. Don't trust emailed payment links set up to look identical to the real deal.

Consumer trap #6:

They look cute and cuddly but sick, very sick.

A puppy lived for just 6 days after being bought off Craiglist. It came cheap and was delivered. But we found his health certificate was bogus. The lesson? Be wary of buying off Craigslist. Purchase pets from licensed dealers or adopt a rescues.

Consumer trap #5:

7 On Your Side got the federal transportation watch-dogs to look into a less than "Dynamic" (Airways) budget carrier accused of stranding hundreds of customers by cancelling flights while not giving refunds. We fought for passengers rights and got their money back.

Consumer trap #4:

7 On Your Side pulled the plug on "power posers," con-men who call businesses threatening utility shutoffs. To keep his pizza shop open, Hamdy Mansour loaded thousands on green dot cards thinking he was paying PSE&G for power.

The lesson: Utilities don't accept payment by prepaid cards or wire transfers. If you get a questionable call simply hang up and call the number on your bill.

Consumer trap #3:

Know your storage contract. A woman found herself in a storage war when the entire unit was auctioned off after a late bill payment. We got the goods back but you should know the lien laws. The big lesson? Storage facilities retain the right to sell your stuff if you don't pay on time.

Consumer trap #2 was our most popular on ABC7NY and Facebook.

How to turn off cellphone spying. The little button known as "location services" keeps a record of everywhere you've been and how long you spent there. If you don't want to be tracked, toggle the button off and erase location history.

And Consumer trap #1 is also the worst scam 7 On Your Side has ever seen. A couple was swindled out of their life savings, their $139,000 down payment gone in 60 seconds after an email hacker asked them to divert funds meant for the title company. But 7 On Your Side got it all back.

The lesson: Never wire large sums of money. Pay by check instead. And whenever possible, especially with any online transactions, pay with a credit card not a debit card. You'll have more protections if there's fraud.

Do you have an issue with a company that you haven't been able to resolve? If so, 7 On Your Side wants to help you!

Send us your questions, issues, and story ideas to by filling out the form above, by emailing 7OnYourSideNina@abc.com, or contact Nina on her Facebook page or tweet her at Twitter @7OnYourSideNY! You can also call the 7 On Your Side Hotline at 917-260-7697.
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