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The Daily Tar Heel

Students Warn of Risks From Storage Companies

But as several students learned the hard way last summer, some storage companies might be more trouble than they're worth.

Last fall, EZ Student Storage, a New York-based storage company, raised the ire of several students who discovered that their credit cards had been overcharged.

Sophomore Ashlee Smith entrusted her belongings to the company only to return to school last August to find numerous inconveniences.

Her items arrived three hours later than promised, and her credit card had been charged three times -- a total of $900.

But Student Legal Services Director Dottie Bernholz said Smith was able to recover her losses due to a new "mechanism for disputing charges."

A new state law says that if charges appear on your credit card that shouldn't be there, the credit card company will reimburse your account and pursue legal action against whoever made the charges.

Bernholz said this is a powerful tool because previously if one was dealing with an out-of-state company, there were no legal precedents established to determine in which state legal action should be taken.

"If you do business with anybody out of state, you're at risk, but if you do business (out-of-state) over the Internet, charge it on your credit card," she said.

She said the electronic contract generated by using one's credit card acts as a safety net and allows one to sue for credit card fraudulence in North Carolina.

This proved beneficial for Smith -- and sophomore Christine Benedetti, whose credit card was charged without ever even using EZ Student Storage's services.

But Benedetti and Smith are still wary of online storage companies that advertise such great services.

"If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is," Smith said.

Bernholz advises students to do research before handing over their belongings to someone for the summer.

She said determining whether the company is endorsed by the University could help students assess the company's credibility.

"Find out if anyone's heard of them; find out if they're legit," Bernholz said.

Benedetti said she has chosen to keep her personal items in friends' apartments for the summer.

She said she also has rented out a storage locker rather than dealing with online storage companies.

Smith said she has decided not to use any storage service this summer, opting instead to pack all her belongings in her car and take them home to Maryland.

She said some storage companies like EZ Student Storage who strictly rely on student business shouldn't be trusted.

Smith said, "They're an out-of-state student's trap."

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