You, too, can be your own watchdog

The Dallas Morning News - - Metro & State - Twit­ter: @DaveLieber

Four years ago, with­out warn­ing or of­fi­cial an­nounce­ment, The Watchdog plopped onto the Metro page of The Dal­las

Morn­ing News. Bam!

The Watchdog re­placed “The Prob­lem Solver” col­umn.

If you fol­low my col­umn on Fri­days and Sun­days, you know I’m not pri­mar­ily a prob­lem solver (al­though I’ve been known to solve a thou­sand or more).

I’m a prob­lem cre­ator. My goal is to ex­pose cor­rup­tion and bad prac­tices in busi­ness and gov­ern­ment. The Watchdog wants to em­bar­rass bul­lies and ex­pose frauds.

That’s one part. The Watchdog also wants to help peo­ple who be­lieve they have no power to learn how to over­come and win on their own.

Truth is, you don’t need me. You have more power than you know. Next Satur­day, I’ll host a free sem­i­nar at

The News to show you how to use that power to pro­tect your fam­ily and busi­ness. More on that in a bit.

Imag­ine if you re­ceived thou­sands of heart­felt emails, let­ters and so­cial me­dia mes­sages each year from your au­di­ence. You learn what they love, what they hate, what they want to fix.

You see pat­terns, too. Pat­terns of why things go wrong. Pat­terns where the same bad de­ci­sions are made. Pat­terns that show how to do things the right way.

I’m not im­mune to a good rip-off artist. I’m a mis­treated, stepped-upon con­sumer, too. First roofer I hired af­ter a hail storm got con­fused on the ad­dress and roofed the wrong house. Se­cond roofer I hired filed bank­ruptcy and went to jail for theft. Way to go, Dave.

AT&T was over­charg­ing me (I didn’t know I qual­i­fied for a cor­po­rate dis­count). Some­one wrote a $279 check in my name at Wal-Mart. I or­dered some­thing on the In­ter­net and it didn’t ar­rive. My elec­tric bill was too high

be­cause I didn’t know how to shop smartly for elec­tric­ity. Sound fa­mil­iar? What if ?

What if I com­bined prob­lems I was hear­ing about with the pat­terns I was see­ing? What if I took all this in­for­ma­tion and de­vised prin­ci­ples that serve as a self-help guide to avoid headaches?

How to hire a roofer. How to force AT&T to be­have (still work­ing on that one). How to han­dle some­one writ­ing a bad check in your name with­out worry. How to get what you right­fully or­dered off the Web. How to cut your elec­tric bill in half.

That’s when I de­cided to cre­ate a con­sumer rights move­ment, “Watchdog Na­tion.” In a world where the big stomp the lit­tle if they can get away with it, you must pro­tect your­self. No­body else will.

Ev­ery­body must be their own watchdog.

But how? Watchdog Na­tion couldn’t ex­ist with­out what I call “the magic Google box.” You can check any­thing out. Ask a bunch of ques­tions. In a mat­ter of sec­onds, for free.

Ev­ery­body you hire and ev­ery­thing you buy can eas­ily be checked out be­fore, not af­ter.

A sam­pling of WDN prin­ci­ples we’ll talk about Satur­day:

Use gov­ern­ment reg­u­la­tors. If your home

war­ranty com­pany won’t prop­erly fix your air con­di­tioner, com­plain to the in­dus­try reg­u­la­tor. In Texas, it’s the Texas Real Es­tate Com­mis­sion. Who knew?

Threaten with small claims court. In a dis­pute with a com­pany, tell them you’re con­sid­er­ing a small claims court law­suit. No lawyer needed. Claims up to $10,000. Let them know you know about this op­tion.

Keep a recorder by the phone. Did you know that a tele­mar­keter who calls you on the phone, il­le­gally, could face an $11,000 fine for each call?

These tips and hun­dreds more are in my award-win­ning book, Dave Lieber’s Watchdog Na­tion: Bite Back When Busi­nesses and Scam­mers Do You Wrong, now in its fourth edi­tion.

We’ll talk about these strate­gies at the sem­i­nar.

My col­league Ma­rina Tra­han Martinez and I in­vite you to our free watchdog train­ing ses­sion from 11 a.m. to noon Satur­day at The Dal­las Morn­ing News’ down­town of­fices, 508 Young St.

You’ll become a fullfledged cit­i­zen of Watchdog Na­tion, com­plete with ID card. (Show that to the scam­mers!)

Bring friends. We’ll have fun. You can RSVP on my Face­book page, “Dave Lieber’s Watchdog Na­tion.” (But if you don’t and still come, I’ve got a seat for you.)

Ma­rina and I can’t wait to meet you! Can’t wait to show you the tools and strate­gies that cit­i­zens of Watchdog Na­tion use to save time, money and ag­gra­va­tion. Can’t wait to show you how much power you truly have.

Staff writer Ma­rina Tra­han Martinez con­trib­uted to this re­port.

Dlieber@dal­las­news.com

DAVE LIEBER

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