Attorney General Leslie Rutledge

 

 

 

323 Center Street, Suite 200
Little Rock, AR 72201
(501)682-2007 or (800) 482-8982
oag@ArkansasAG.gov

 

 

September 12, 2019

16 Apps Parents Should Know About

Smartphone Tip card

LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas parents across the State want what is best for their children. So many Arkansans benefit from technology, but at the Attorney General’s Office, we routinely hear about preteens and teenagers who are bullied or have started relationships with strangers online.

“Keeping Arkansas kids safe is a top priority,” said Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “Being informed, opening every app on your child’s phone and knowing who they are talking to are some of the best ways we can protect our kids from predators and online bullying.”

Attorney General Leslie Rutledge is alerting parents to 16 smartphone apps that may make children vulnerable to dangers online:

  • Bumble – Bumble is a popular dating app that requires women to make the first contact. It is common for minors to use this app and falsify their age.
  • Calculator% – Calculator% is one of several “vault” style apps that appears to be a harmless app, but is used to hide photos, videos, files and even browser history.
  • Chatous – Chatous is a messaging app that allows users to chat and share images. This app makes it easy for predators to engage in age-inappropriate conversations with potential victims.
  • Discord – Discord is a voice and text chat tool that allows gamers to communicate in real time. Users can chat, add friends one-on-one or in larger groups. This app discusses content geared towards adults, but allows users as young as 13.
  • Grindr – Grindr is a dating app for LGBT adults, not children. The app gives users options to chat, share photos and meet with people based on a smartphone’s GPS location.
  • House Party – House Party is a group video chat app that allows users to communicate via live video chats and texts. There is no screening and the video is live. Users can also communicate with people they don’t know.
  • Live.Me – Live.Me allows users to livestream videos using geo-location to share the videos so other users can find the broadcaster’s exact location. Users can earn “coins” to “pay” minors for photos.
  • Monkey – Monkey is an app that allows users as young as 12 to chat with people all over the world during a brief introductory call, then users are given the chance to add each other on Snapchat.
  • TikTok – TikTok is a popular app among kids that is used to create and share short videos with limited privacy controls. Users are vulnerable to explicit content and cyberbullying.
  • Tinder – Tinder is a dating app that allows users to “swipe right” to like someone and “swipe left” to pass. Users can falsify their age, share photos, messages, and meet.
  • Tumblr – Tumblr is a blogging app and website that allows users as young as 13 to create an account. There are very few privacy settings and pornography is easy to find. Most posts are public and can’t be made private. This app was removed from the Apple App Store in ’18.
  • Snapchat – Snapchat is a photo & video sharing app that promises users their photo or video will disappear even though it doesn’t. Snapchat stories allow users to view content for up to 24 hours and share their location.
  • WhatsApp – WhatsApp is a popular messaging app allowing users to text, send photos, make calls and leave voicemails worldwide.
  • Whisper – Whisper is a social network that allows users to share secrets anonymously and it reveals the users’ location so strangers can meet.
  • Yubo – Yubo is a social media app that allows users as young as 13 to create a profile, share their location, view other users’ profiles in their area and view livestreams. Substance use, profanity, racial slurs and scantily clad people are common.
  • YouTube – YouTube is a video sharing app that may not be age appropriate for kids. Inappropriate content can be found using innocent search terms, but with parental controls this can be avoided.

For more information on smartphone, apps and internet safety, call the Arkansas Attorney General’s Office at 800-482-8982 or visit ArkansasAG.gov.

 

September 5, 2019

Don’t Fumble When Buying Tickets

LITTLE ROCK – When Arkansans decide to take in a live football game at any of our great in-state institutions this fall, it is important they don’t fumble when buying tickets. Oftentimes scam artists will try to take advantage of fans by selling them tickets that are fake, duplicates or don’t actually exist at all. They may use high-pressure-sales tactics to rush innocent Arkansans into buying tickets using deals that seem unbelievable and many times are. The stadium should be a safe haven for diehard fans rather than for scammers.

“Football in Arkansas is a cherished tradition and it is worth protecting,” said Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “Whether you support the Razorbacks, Red Wolves, Bears or Boll Weevils, everyone deserves to cheer for their favorite team without worry of scammers trying to take advantage of their wallets.”

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge issued the following tips to help Arkansans protect themselves when looking to buy game tickets during the upcoming football season.

  • Research the seller or broker with the Better Business Bureau and ensure it is a member of the National Association of Ticket Brokers.
  • A legitimate ticket broker will offer a refund policy. Only buy tickets from a reseller that provides clear details about the terms of the transaction.
  • Always use a credit card to make a ticket purchase because credit card laws provide buyers with some recourse if the tickets are fraudulent.
  • Check the seats ahead of time. Ask for section, row and seat numbers to avoid obstructed views and purchasing tickets that do not exist.
  • Stick with well-known ticket sellers who offer guarantees and policies that protect buyers and have the ability to investigate and restrict accounts of merchants who violate the policies.
  • If a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is. Refuse to be rushed. Scam artists often try to hurry prospective buyers into making a decision.

According to AARP, nearly 5 million consumers receive fraudulent concert, sporting event and theme park tickets each year.  We can all do our part by ensuring our neighbors, friends, and families are educated on the deceptive practices of scammers and ways to avoid them.

Consumers who think they may have purchased a counterfeit ticket can contact the National Association of Ticket Brokers at 630-510-4594 or the Arkansas Attorney General’s Public Protection Department.

For more information on other tips to avoid being scammed and other consumer-related issues, call the Arkansas Attorney General’s Office at 800-482-8982 or visit ArkansasAG.gov.

About Attorney General Leslie Rutledge

 

August 28, 2019

Attorney General Alert: Scammers Luring Seniors into Sharing Medicare Numbers

LITTLE ROCK – Arkansans eligible for Medicare and Medicaid should beware of scam artists attempting to steal their new individual Medicare card number. Thieves are actively targeting older Arkansans by spoofing their caller ID numbers—making the calls appear to be from a government agency—and luring seniors into sharing their Medicare card numbers.

“Medicare will never call asking for your Medicare card number because they already have it,” said Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “If you receive a call claiming to be with Medicare, hang up and call the phone number listed on your account statement.”

In 2018, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid started issuing beneficiary cards with unique identifying numbers in place of the cardholders’ Social Security Number. The transition period to Medicare Beneficiary Identifier numbers for all participants is set to conclude by December 2019.

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge issued the following tips to help Arkansans protect themselves.

  • Never give out or confirm sensitive information, such as a bank account, credit card or social security numbers unless the caller is trusted and his or her identity has been confirmed.
  • Be cautious of callers using organizational or familiar-sounding names similar to existing agencies. Scammers use internet technology to spoof area codes, so although it may seem that a call is from Washington, D.C., it could instead originate from anywhere in the world—even from scammers.
  • The Center for Medicare and Medicaid and other government agencies have warned about these scams. If contacted, hang up and call the government agency directly at a trusted number.

If someone asks you for your information, for money, or threatens to cancel your health benefits if you don’t share your personal details, then hang up and call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227) or visit www.medicare.gov/fraud.

For more information on other tips to avoid being scammed and other consumer-related issues, call the Arkansas Attorney General’s Office at 800-482-8982 or visitArkansasAG.gov.

 

August 15, 2019

Attorney General Alert: Student Loans have Potential for Long-Term Financial Issues

 LITTLE ROCK – Starting school at a new college or university can be intimidating, especially when factoring in the immense expense and the potential need to take out student loans. There are some key items that every student should know before agreeing to a loan that often takes decades to repay.

“A student loan should be a short-time obligation to give students an opportunity to be successful,” said Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “Unfortunately, these loans are too often carried over for decades and hold our best and brightest back from making investments or taking risks as entrepreneurs.”

Attorney General Rutledge has provided the following tips for students considering taking out a student loan:

  •  Make sure you understand your loan. Before taking out a loan, make sure you understand the repayment terms and other obligations of the loan, interest rates and how they will be applied to the loan, and where to find your balance and payment schedule after you graduate. For federal loans, visit the National Student Loan Data System (nslds.ed.gov).
  • Take advantage of the grace period. Oftentimes, there is a grace period after you graduate or stop attending a college or university. It is important to know how long the grace period is and whether interest will be charged during the grace period. Grace periods allow you to get your “feet on the ground” while making a plan to repay the loan.
  • Know your re-payment options. Every loan is different and some offer the chance to change payment options based on your income rather than a set monthly amount. In some cases, if you are going through a financial hardship, there is the ability to temporarily defer payments.
  • Be wary of loan consolidation and refinance offers. Many companies offer loan refinance options, but may not provide the promised service or might provide services that consumers can access for no cost. Consumers should learn all details about any loan refinance offer before enrolling in one.
  • Check your credit report to see all of your education debts, including federal and private student loans.

For more information, the Arkansas Student Loan Authority can be contacted here or at 800-443-6030 or call the Arkansas Attorney General’s Office at (800) 482-8982 or visit ArkansasAG.gov or facebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.

 

July 3, 2019

ATTORNEY GENERAL ALERT:

Protecting the Financial Interests of Service Members

LITTLE ROCK – While active duty service members protect us from Arkansas to the far corners of the world, the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) of 2003 protects their interests back home. Every day, our military members wake up thousands of miles away from their homes and work hard fighting for our liberty. The SCRA ensures that our American heroes will be protected from eviction from those very homes during their absence, in addition to providing protection on issues ranging from civil court postponements to interest rate caps.

“By nature, a service member’s duty to country prevents them from being involved in many interests they hold back home,” said Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “The SCRA protects our heroes from issues related to and during a deployment or training. Sometimes it is not possible for them to appear for a civil court case, for instance, and the SCRA provides protections in that scenario. The Act is a way to recognize and thank military members for their constant sacrifice at home for the greater good.”

Attorney General Rutledge released the following tips as part of Military Consumer Protection Month to help service members who need to take advantage of the many protections provided under the SCRA:

  • First, seek the counsel of a military legal assistance attorney to determine if your SCRA rights have been violated.
  • If the military attorney determines that a violation of the SCRA has occurred, the service member must retain a private civilian attorney with SCRA expertise in order to pursue a lawsuit. The Arkansas Bar Associationprovides a database of Arkansas attorneys.
  • Possible remedies for these types of issues include the recovery of monetary damages, legal costs and attorney fees.

The SCRA limits mortgage interest rates to 6 percent during military service and up to one year after service ends. Unless a court intervenes, it prevents a mortgage creditor from selling, foreclosing or seizing an active-duty service member’s mortgaged property during service and up to one year after military service terminates. The SCRA also provides protection requiring a judge to stay mortgage proceedings if a service member shows that military service has affected his or her ability to comply with mortgage obligations.

Many service members would benefit from mortgage relief measures, and the SCRA underscores this by prohibiting a mortgage servicer from requiring a service member to be delinquent on payments in order to qualify for loss mitigation relief if he or she would otherwise qualify.

The first-of-its-kind “Military and Veterans Initiative” launched by Attorney General Rutledge in 2015 focuses on protecting service members. It remains a key part of protecting service members from any consumer-related issues and works in collaboration with other programs to protect those who protect us.

For more information and tips on how to avoid a scam, call the Arkansas Attorney General’s Office at (800) 482-8982 or visit ArkansasAG.gov orfacebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.

 

June 26, 2019

ATTORNEY GENERAL ALERT: Buyers Beware of Flood-Damaged Vehicles

LITTLE ROCK – Flood waters across Arkansas and surrounding states have receded with damaged homes, businesses, and vehicles remaining, but the potential for further consumer harm still exist. Consumers should use caution if they are considering purchasing a vehicle in the coming months as bad actors may be interested in lining their own pockets by selling water-damaged vehicles without disclosing the hidden damage.

“Arkansas law has safeguards in place to protect consumers from unscrupulous individuals and car dealerships,” said Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “However, many of these transactions happen as part of private sales.”

Attorney General Rutledge released the following tips for Arkansans to consider before purchasing a new or used vehicle that could have been involved in flooding.

  • Always ask for the vehicle’s history report, such as CARFAX, before buying it
  • Ask the seller if the car has been damaged by hail or flood waters, and always check the car’s title history.
  • Inspect the vehicle for water stains and mildew in the vents and behind the dashboard. Also look under the hood for signs of oxidation.
  • Flood damaged cars may look fine because of cosmetic repairs, but they may have defective electrical systems, steering problems, faulty computers, faulty air bag systems and persistent mold problems.
  • Have the car inspected by an independent mechanic before deciding to buy.
  • If the car has experienced significant damage and is considered a salvage vehicle, a buyer’s notification should be posted, and the price should be much lower than the price of a similar car with a clean title. Consider that it may be more difficult later selling a salvage vehicle and its value will be compromised.

Consumers should review a vehicle’s title for any flood damage reports, especially if it was last titled outside the state. Arkansas law requires dealerships to place a separate disclosure in the window of cars for sale that have previously been submerged, but consumers should be careful if purchasing a vehicle through a private sale. Although the private seller is required by Arkansas law to notify the buyer of any flood damage, a posted disclosure is not mandatory for this type of transaction.

Consumers who believe they have been sold a flood-damaged item that was not advertised as such should file a complaint with the Attorney General’s Office.

For more information and tips to avoid scams and other consumer-related issues, contact the Arkansas Attorney General’s office at (800) 482-8982 or consumer@arkansasag.gov or visit ArkansasAG.gov or facebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.

 

June 19, 2019

ATTORNEY GENERAL ALERT: Bad Actors Target Flood Victims

LITTLE ROCK – Following the historic floods of the past few weeks, there is a lot of work to be done as Arkansans return home, but scam artists may be posing as contractors to steal quick cash from victims.

“Unscrupulous contractors may try to take advantage of hard-working Arkansans, especially during or after a disaster when people may seem vulnerable and in need,” said Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “Arkansans facing home repairs should research contractors and do their homework before making a payment and scheduling work to be done.”

Attorney General Rutledge issued the following tips for flood victims who are ready to begin repairs to their property:

  • Beware of door to door solicitors selling home-repair work. To find someone reputable, ask friends or family who have recently used a home-repair contractor or professional.
  • Avoid any home-repair solicitor who asks for an upfront payment or who will not provide you with a detailed written contract with name and address of the contractor as well as the grade, quality, name brand and quantity of any materials to be used.
  • Get at least three written estimates. A reputable contractor or professional will never try to pressure potential customers.
  • Check with the Attorney General’s Office, the Better Business Bureau or the Arkansas contractors’ Licensing Board to find out if the company has a complaint history.
  • Never make the final payment until you have had an opportunity to inspect and approve the work.
  • Remember that all contracts resulting from a home-solicitation sale generally must include a buyer’s right to cancel within three (3) business days after the contract is signed.
  • Make sure all warranties and guarantees are in writing.

The Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) administers the National Flood Insurance Program, and provides answers to specific questions regarding that program at FloodSmart.gov/faqs.

For more information and tips to avoid scams and other consumer-related issues, contact the Arkansas Attorney General’s office at (800) 482-8982 or consumer@arkansasag.gov or visit ArkansasAG.gov or facebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.

 

June 13, 2019

ATTORNEY GENERAL ALERT: Be on the Lookout for Price Gouging

Says, ‘will hold any business accountable that takes advantage of flood victims’

LITTLE ROCK – As Arkansans continue to recover from the recent historic flooding, some businesses may try to take advantage of consumers by raising prices beyond legal limits. Arkansas’s price-gouging law prohibits businesses from charging more than 10 percent above the pre-disaster price of goods or services.

“I will hold any business accountable that takes advantage of flood victims by illegally overcharging for needed supplies,” said Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “Businesses must follow the law and find a balance between supply and demand when pricing goods and services following a declared state of emergency.”

Attorney General Rutledge released the following tips to avoid price gouging:

  • Shop around before purchasing goods or services, especially for post-disaster home repairs.
  • Avoid “drive-by” quotes from door-to-door solicitors.
  • When possible, deal with established, reputable businesses in the community.
  • Always get estimates and price quotes in writing.

The price-gouging law is triggered whenever a state of emergency is declared by federal, State or local governments. The ban on price gouging remains in effect for at least 30 days on goods or services related to the emergency (e.g., medical supplies, storage services, motor fuel, etc.) and can be extended another 30 days by the local governing body, if needed. For home repair and cleanup services, the law remains in effect for 180 days. The scope of the law is broad and is intended to cover anything that may be needed in the event of a state of emergency.

While the law sets a general 10 percent cap on price increases during an emergency, businesses may lawfully charge a higher price if they can establish that the higher price is directly attributable to additional costs incurred by the retailer, by its supplier, or as the result of additional costs for labor or materials used to provide the goods or service. In such a limited situation, the business may charge no more than 10 percent above the total of the cost to the business, in addition to the markup which would customarily be applied by the business for the goods or service.
For more information and tips to avoid scams and other consumer-related issues, contact the Arkansas Attorney General’s office at (800) 482-8982 or consumer@arkansasag.gov or visit ArkansasAG.gov or facebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.

 

 

June 6, 2019

ATTORNEY GENERAL ALERT: Use Caution When Giving to Those Affected By the Flood

LITTLE ROCK – The record-setting and devastating flooding in Arkansas means many people are looking for charities and organizations to assist those who are directly impacted by the widespread disaster. While there are many organizations collecting money and resources to help fellow Arkansans, there are also some bad actors who are lining their own pockets by posing as legitimate organizations or setting up crowdfunding sites claiming to be giving to those in need.

“It is despicable that some are preying on Arkansans in need and taking advantage of our kind-hearted,” said Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “My office will investigate and go after those who choose to lie, cheat and steal.”

Attorney General Rutledge released the following tip for those considering helping their fellow Arkansans:

  • Do not fall prey to high-pressure sales tactics as they are often the first sign of an unscrupulous and fraudulent charity.
  • Before getting out a checkbook or credit card in response to a phone solicitation, make attempts to determine the validity of the organization by conducting research.
  • Watch out for similar but different organization names as some con artists will use names like those of existing, reputable nonprofits in order to trick consumers.
  • On crowdfunding sites, determine any relation the organizer has to the recipient and who is in control of the withdrawals.
  • Never send cash. Make check or credit card payments for increased security and for tax purposes.
  • If donating via text message, verify the organization’s number prior to sending information.

Also be wary of charities that pop up quickly in response to the recent flooding and other emergencies. Even if they are legitimate, they oftentimes do not have a system in place to get donations to those in need. Consider giving to an established organization which helps disaster victims in the area.
For more information and tips to avoid scams and other consumer-related issues, contact the Arkansas Attorney General’s office at (800) 482-8982 or consumer@arkansasag.gov or visit ArkansasAG.gov or facebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.

 

May 29, 2019

ATTORNEY GENERAL ALERT: Beware of Flood Insurance Scams

LITTLE ROCK – As Arkansas experiences historic flooding and damage, Attorney General Leslie Rutledge warns Arkansans to beware of flood insurance scam artists who will look to steal your money in the midst of the chaos. As the most common natural disaster, flooding can strike at any time, and flood insurance is available to defray the costs of repair and property loss. Flood insurance, however, requires advance preparation and despite what scam artists may say, it cannot be purchased as a quick fix to ongoing flood disasters.

“My heart aches for the many who have and will suffer losses as the Arkansas River continues to rise to record levels this week,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “Scam artists see disaster as an opportunity to steal from those in need. Remember, there are insurance options to help Arkansans navigate future threats of flooding disasters, but consumers should be mindful of the limitations and requirements of the National Flood Insurance Program.”

Rutledge released the following tips to help consumers considering flood insurance as an option to protect their property:

  • Flood insurance policies are not instantly effective and generally require 30 days before they become effective;
  • Consult with an insurance agent to purchase a flood insurance policy, and beware of insurance agents that accept the filing of a claim before purchasing a policy;
  • Most homeowners and renters insurance policies do not include flood insurance, and flood insurance must be purchased as a separate policy;
  • Properties that have been flooded in the past may obtain flood insurance policies;
  • The price of flood insurance may vary based upon the risk of flooding at the property location.

Consumers who have additional questions about flood insurance should contact the Arkansas Attorney General’s office at (800) 482-8982 or (501) 682-2007 or the Arkansas Insurance Department at (800) 282-9134 or (501) 371-2600.

The Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) administers the National Flood Insurance Program, and provides answers to specific questions athttps://www.floodsmart.gov/faqs.

For more information and tips to avoid scams and other consumer-related issues, contact the Arkansas Attorney General’s office at (800) 482-8982 or consumer@arkansasag.govor visit ArkansasAG.gov or facebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.

 

May 22, 2019

ATTORNEY GENERAL ALERT: The Vicious Trend of Vaping

LITTLE ROCK – The use of e-cigarettes, or vaping, has become a dangerous trend in which too many Arkansas teens are participating. Eight years ago, just two percent of Arkansas teens vaped. Today, more than 20 percent of Arkansas teens vape. Vaping is the act of inhaling and exhaling a vapor, which is produced by an e-cigarette or similar device. The term “vaping” is used because e-cigarettes do not produce tobacco smoke, but rather an aerosol that actually consists of fine particles containing varying amounts of toxic chemicals, which have been linked to cancer, as well as seizures, respiratory and heart diseases.

“As adults, we need to be watchful of the young people around us and educate them about the dangers of vaping,” said Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “Manufacturers make these products to look flashy and appealing to teens. This is an extremely dangerous trend that is hitting Arkansas’s middle and high school students at alarming numbers.”

Attorney General Rutledge released the following tips to warn parents, teachers and children of the dangers of vaping e-cigarettes:

  • Review the ingredients carefully because many of them contain substances known to be carcinogenic, such as nicotine, vegetable glycerin and propylene glycol.
  • Consult your physician about the risks associated with vaping. One pod used in an e-cigarette can have the same amount of nicotine as an entire pack of traditional cigarettes. Exposure to nicotine can alter the structure and function of developing children’s brains.
  • Remember that studies have shown that nicotine products are highly addictive and are associated with later onset of cigarette smoking habits.
  • Investigate the incidence of product failure as some e-cigarette device batteries have exploded or caught on fire, causing burns or even death.
  • Remember to keep e-cigarette supplies out of the reach of small children as some have become sick or died from swallowing the pleasant-smelling e-juice.
  • Be mindful that e-cigarette pods can be used for illegal purposes such as for odorless marijuana oils based upon online tutorials.

There are many different types of e-cigarettes and other vaping devices, most of which contain pods of nicotine-filled e-liquid, sweet-smelling flavorings, and other potentially harmful chemicals. With sweet-smelling aromas and catchy flavor names like Strawberry Watermelon POP, Sunrise Pressed eJuice, Pink Lemonade Risky and Ice Cream, teens are experimenting with, and ultimately becoming addicted, to e-cigarettes. Once they get hooked, teens are often able to hide their addictions from parents, teachers and other adults by purchasing widely available vaping devices disguised as everyday items like pens or USB flash drives.

For more information and tips to avoid scams and other consumer-related issues, contact the Arkansas Attorney General’s office at (800) 482-8982 or consumer@arkansasag.govor visit ArkansasAG.gov or facebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.

 

May 15, 2019

ATTORNEY GENERAL ALERT: In the Market for an RV, Consider Options Before Buying


LITTLE ROCK – High pressure tactics from unscrupulous salespeople will result in many Arkansans paying for more than they bargain for when they purchase an RV this summer. Although most RV dealers in the state are straightforward and work with customers to find something within their price that suits their needs, the Attorney General’s office has received complaints about some unscrupulous salespersons who convince buyers to sign contracts with terms that unexpectedly raised costs on the final sale price. Consumers should use caution, ask questions and talk to other owners when considering a large purchase such as an RV.

“Unscrupulous salespeople will often try to pressure consumers into making an immediate purchase in the heat of the moment,” said Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “Arkansans should proceed with extreme caution, take their time and consider if this is the right financial decision for them.”

Attorney General Rutledge released the following tips for Arkansans who are considering purchasing an RV, fifth wheel or camping trailer:

  • Before committing to purchase a travel trailer, take one on a test run or try out a rental.
  • Ensure the towing capacity of current vehicles and determine if any modifications will need to be made to the towing vehicle to ensure safe operation on the open road.
  • Ask if the dealer offers driving tips or training for new owners.
  • Consider where an RV or trailer will be stored when not in use.
  • Find out how to use and where dump stations are located.

Consumers should be mindful of the challenges and costs of repair. In the past, Rutledge has pursued legal action against a Conway County man who was deceiving consumers nationwide about the status of repaired refrigeration units in RVs.  In that case, the Attorney General obtained a $1.5 million judgment against NuCold and its owner Jerry Collins.

For more information and tips to avoid scams and other consumer-related issues, contact the Arkansas Attorney General’s office at (800) 482-8982 or consumer@arkansasag.govor visit ArkansasAG.gov or facebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.

 

May 8, 2019

ATTORNEY GENERAL ALERT: Vacationers Scammed By Online Hotel Bookers

LITTLE ROCK – Third-party travel websites are popular but some may charge Arkansans unnecessary, hidden fees. As Arkansans begin to make summer vacation plans, they should use caution when going online for services including booking travel through an online third-party vendor.

“Some unscrupulous online travel vendors use deceptive and misleading marketing tactics to convince consumers they are talking directly to a hotel,” said Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “In these situations, the consumer is actually talking to a third party that may charge additional fees and may cause the reservation and any special reservation requests to be lost or incorrectly recorded.”

Attorney General Rutledge urges all Arkansans to observe the recommendations of the Better Business Bureau and the American Hotel and Lodging Association to ensure safe travel booking:

  • Whenever possible, book directly with the hotel or resort.
  • If using a third-party booking site, make sure the site is legitimate. Do not trust a website just because it appears to be legitimate or comes up near the top of online search results.
  • The best hotel deals are often available far in advance. Planning ahead will give the opportunity  to research different sites, compare options and amenities, and lock in a good rate.
  • Avoid broad internet searches like “best deals” or “cheapest rates.” Broad search terms can sometimes lead to websites that look official, but are not. Deceptive travel sites often pose as the actual hotel’s website, even using the hotel’s name in the URL and its logo and copyrighted images throughout the site. Double check the website address before providing your credit card information. 
  • Call the hotel a few weeks before the travel date to confirm the reservation.


In 2017, the Federal Trade Commission settled a federal lawsuit with a third-party hotel-booking website accused of misleading consumers into believing they were booking directly with a hotel.

 

May 1, 2019

ATTORNEY GENERAL ALERT: Don’t Get Hung Up by Phone Scammers

LITTLE ROCK – Scammers are continuing to find ways to steal Arkansans’ Social Security numbers. Many of these attempts begin with a robocall requesting a call back and stating that the consumer’s Social Security number has been found, often at the scene of a crime. The person on the other end of the phone threatens the consumer by stating if they do not return the call they will be sent to jail.

“Never give out or confirm personal information, such as your Social Security number, to someone you don’t know,” said Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “Con artists are very good at convincing consumers to turn over personal information, sometimes even turning forceful or threatening. We must all remain vigilant and not turn over any information, especially through an unsolicited phone call.”

Attorney General Rutledge and the Federal Trade Commission released the following tips to use if someone calls claiming to be from a government agency or have your personal information:

  • Use due diligence to confirm the identity and legitimacy of the person on the other end of the phone by hanging up and finding the phone number from an old bill or the organization’s website before giving or confirming any information.
  • Be cautious of callers using organization names similar to existing agencies. Scammers use internet technology to spoof area codes, so although it may seem the call is from Washington, D.C., for example, it could originate from anywhere in the world.
  • The Social Security Administration and other government agencies have warned about these scams and suggest contacting that agency directly.

For more information and tips to avoid scams and other consumer-related issues, contact the Arkansas Attorney General’s office at (800) 482-8982 or consumer@arkansasag.govor visit ArkansasAG.gov or facebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.

 

April 24, 2019

ATTORNEY GENERAL ALERT: Flooding Brings Headaches for Arkansans

 LITTLE ROCK – After the recent heavy rains and severe storms swept across Arkansas, which caused a section of I-30 to be temporarily shut down and storm damage throughout the State, Arkansans are left picking up the pieces and preparing for storm season. While nature’s fury can be devastating, there are many things that Arkansans can do to protect themselves and their property in the aftermath of a storm.

“Severe storms and flood waters can cause terrible damage to property,” said Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “Arkansans need to know the steps to take if their property has been impacted by the recent severe weather. We also need to know how to protect our pocketbook from those who want to take advantage of us during this difficult time.”

Attorney General Rutledge released the following tips for consumers who are cleaning up water damage on their property:

  • Call your insurance agent. If insurance covers the damage, the agent should have an adjuster contact you.
  • Make a list of the damage and take photographs or video as you clean. This documentation will be needed for insurance claims, applications for disaster assistance, and income tax deductions.
  • Clear away any mud, and clean and disinfect every surface.
  • Check with the Attorney General’s office and the Better Business Bureau before hiring anyone to clean up or make repairs.
  • Get multiple estimates and compare prices.
  • Turn off all electrical and heating and cooling systems to be inspected and repaired or cleaned by a qualified or licensed contractor.
  • Appliances and electronics should be professionally cleaned and serviced to prevent electrocution.
  • Never pay in advance for any repair service, and inspect the completed project before making the final payment.
  • Communicate with the insurance company directly rather than authorizing a contractor to negotiate with the company.

For more information and tips to avoid scams and other consumer-related issues, contact the Arkansas Attorney General’s office at (800) 482-8982 orconsumer@arkansasag.gov or visit ArkansasAG.gov orfacebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.

 

April 16, 2019

ATTORNEY GENERAL ALERT: Prescription Drug Take Back Scheduled for April 27

LITTLE ROCK – The bi-annual National Prescription Drug Take Back Day is scheduled for April 27. It is an important opportunity for Arkansans to clean out old and unused prescription medications because more than half of Arkansas teens report it is easy to obtain prescription drugs from their parents’ or grandparents’ medicine cabinets. Prescription Drug Take Back is one way to ensure these lethal drugs stay out of the hands of addicted Arkansans.

“The prescription drug epidemic continues to wreak havoc on our state and country,” said Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “Misuse and abuse of prescription drugs impacts a staggering number of families across Arkansas. It will take all of us working together to make a difference, including properly disposing of medications.”

Rutledge released the following list of medications that will be accepted at these events across the State:

  • Opioids, such as OxyContin, Hydrocodone, Vicodin, etc.
  • Stimulants, such as Adderall, Ritalin, Concerta, Dexedrine, etc.
  • Depressants, such as Ativan, Xanax, Valium, etc.
  • Other prescription medications
  • Over-the-counter medicines
  • Vitamins
  • Pet medicines
  • Medicated ointments and lotions
  • Inhalers
  • Liquid medicines in glass or leak-proof containers (up to 12 ounces)
  • Medicine samples

Medications may be returned in the original bottle or in any other container for increased privacy.

Prescription drug Take Back locations will be available 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. on Saturday, April 27. The National Prescription Drug Take Back Days are held twice a year, but to find event sites and year-round drop-off locations near you, visitARTakeBack.org.

Properly destroying these medications also protects the environment. Medicines that are flushed or poured down the drain can end up polluting waters, which could contaminate food and water supplies. Wastewater treatment plants or septic systems may not remove many medicine compounds. Turning over these medications at Take Back Day events also reduces the risk of accidental poisonings by children, seniors or pets, as well as reduces the risk of drug abuse.

Attorney General Rutledge has been a leader in the State and nation combating the opioid epidemic by using a multifaceted approach through education, prevention and litigation. Her first-in-the-nation Prescription for Life program is free for high schools and over the last year has reached almost 14,000 students. In November, the Attorney General hosted the annual Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention Summit with record attendance, which provided training and educational opportunities for law enforcement, medical professionals, pharmacists and educators. Rutledge has taken an aggressive approach to protect Arkansans and combat the epidemic by suing Johnson & Johnson, Purdue Pharma and Endo, opioid manufacturers who created the crisis in Arkansas for violations of the Arkansas Deceptive Trade Practices Act and the Arkansas Medicaid Fraud False Claims Act.

For more information and tips to avoid scams and other consumer-related issues, contact the Arkansas Attorney General’s office at (800) 482-8982 orconsumer@arkansasag.gov or visit ArkansasAG.gov orfacebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.

April 10, 2019

ATTORNEY GENERAL ALERT: Scammers Selling Fake ‘Fido’ Pets to Families

 LITTLE ROCK – Scam artists are hiding online pretending to sell domestic pets, but instead are taking the consumer’s money without turning over a new fluffy friend. Often, these ads are found on free buy-and-sell websites and use especially endearing photos of the animal they have no intention of sending, or may not even own.

“Con artists are scouring the internet looking for new ways to get into our wallets,” said Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “Families considering adding a new pet have a lot to think about, especially whether having this new pet is the right decision for them. They should not have to also worry if the seller is trying to scam them.”

Attorney General Rutledge and the Federal Trade Commission released the following tips to avoid falling victim to a scammer selling a pet that does not exist.

  • Visit in person the breeder or rescue group offering the pet. Responsible individuals and organizations will allow potential customers to tour their facility.
  • Search the user’s profile for warning signs that it may be a scam. Fake breeder websites can often look real because they steal content from legitimate rescue sites. Look for duplicate sites by copying a line from the website into a search engine and looking for identical wording elsewhere on the Internet.
  • Arrange to pick up the animal from a kennel instead of meeting the breeder at a potentially unsafe location. Do not rely on the breeder to ship the animal, and never pay for shipping.
  • Check the organization’s references. Talk to others who have purchased pets from this breeder and the breeder’s veterinarian.
  • Pay for the puppy with a check or credit card. If a breeder pressures for a wire transfer or prepaid debit card payment, it is probably a scam.

Attorney General Rutledge encourages Arkansans to do their research regarding adopting and purchasing pets. If you have questions about a potential pet shipper, the International Pet and Animal Transportation Association provides a list of trusted shippers across the world.

For more information and tips to avoid scams and other consumer-related issues, contact the Arkansas Attorney General’s office at (800) 482-8982 or consumer@arkansasag.govor visit ArkansasAG.gov or facebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.

 

April 4, 2019

ATTORNEY GENERAL ALERT: Scammers Posing as Trusted Companies to Steal Financial Information 

LITTLE ROCK – Scammers are posing as employees of legitimate and trusted businesses such as pest control, lawn care or alarm companies in an attempt to steal personal information from Arkansans. The caller tries to set up an in-home appointment or confirm personal information in hopes of gaining access to credit card numbers, social security numbers or bank account information. This is a scam, and Arkansans should hang up immediately.

“Arkansans should be cautious of unsolicited callers trying to confirm personal information and set up appointments,” said Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “If you have any doubt, hang up and find the company’s phone number from an independent source and call them to confirm the information you have been told. Do not use the number on your caller ID from the original call.”

Attorney General Rutledge released the following tips for recognizing and responding to these types of scam calls:

  • These callers may request to be contacted only at the number provided instead of the company’s general number.
  • These scammers know your name but try to gather other personal information.
  • Be mindful that scammers can spoof the caller ID to suggest they are calling from the trusted company when they are not.
  • Do not trust the caller simply because they have personal information.
  • Do not verify information or give out personal banking or similar information because it could lead to identity theft.

If you have been a victim of identity theft, close accounts that have been tampered with or fraudulently opened, and file a complaint with the FTC. The Attorney General’s office also offers an ID Theft Passport to help victims reestablish their good name, which requires that consumers first file a police report for financial identity theft.

For more information and tips to avoid scams and other consumer-related issues, contact the Arkansas Attorney General’s office at (800) 482-8982 or consumer@arkansasag.govor visit ArkansasAG.gov or facebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.

 

March 20, 2019

ATTORNEY GENERAL ALERT: Tax Scammers Send Fake Letters

Says, “The Bureau of Tax Enforcement for Pulaski County is a fake, unlawful organization”

LITTLE ROCK – With tax season deadline looming, scammers continue to adapt when seeking ways to instill fear and intimidate Arkansans. The Arkansas Attorney General’s office has received reports of a scam being sent through the mail which appears to be a letter from the so-called “Bureau of Tax Enforcement for Pulaski County”—an entity that does NOT exist—claiming the recipient owes money to another state.

“Scammers are determined to steal your hard-earned money and will go to great lengths to intimidate Arkansans,” said Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “The Bureau of Tax Enforcement for Pulaski County is a fake, unlawful organization and these letters often do not provide a return address, only a phone number.”

Attorney General Rutledge released the following tips to use if Arkansans have received a similar letter:

  • Contact the local tax office to make sure you have no outstanding bills.
  • Do not verify sensitive information such as social security number and banking information; verifying that information could lead to identity theft.
  • File a police report with your local law enforcement.
  • If consumers have questions, then contact the Attorney General’s office.

The scam letter may also request that the recipient purchase gift cards or prepaid debit cards to pay off the “debt.” The scammer will ask for the code on the purchased card, which gives them complete access to money on the card. In most cases, once the prepaid card money is depleted, it cannot be recovered.

For more information and tips to avoid scams and other consumer-related issues, contact the Arkansas Attorney General’s office at (800) 482-8982 or consumer@arkansasag.govor visit ArkansasAG.gov or facebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.

 

March 13, 2019

ATTORNEY GENERAL ALERT: Favorite Grandchild Scam Fools Arkansans


LITTLE ROCK – Elderly Arkansans are often a target of con artists, and one of the most convincing ones is called the favorite grandchild scam. This scam involves a scammer calling an elderly individual, saying they are his/her favorite grandchild and are in trouble and need money wired immediately. Grandparents are often willing to do whatever it takes to help their grandchild, and so they more commonly fall for the scam.

“Under no circumstances should you wire money or give a credit/debit card number to a caller claiming to be a grandchild in jail unless you have verified that information with another close family member,” said Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “The caller tricks Arkansans into saying the names of family and then pretends to be that family member in dire need of money.”

Attorney General Rutledge recommends the following strategies to avoid falling victim to the “favorite grandchild” scheme:

  • Resist pressure to act quickly.
  • Never give or wire money based on any unsolicited phone call.
  • Verify the family member’s location by directly calling another family member or the grandchild.
  • Do not send money to an unknown account or entity.
  • Ask the caller for his or her name, and if they cannot provide it, hang up immediately.
  • Have a plan in place when family members are traveling to easily identify whether or not a need is genuine.

For more information and tips to avoid scams and other consumer-related issues, contact the Arkansas Attorney General’s office at (800) 482-8982 or consumer@arkansasag.govor visit ArkansasAG.gov or facebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.

 

March 6, 2019

ATTORNEY GENERAL ALERT: Top 10 Complaints of 2018


LITTLE ROCK – In conjunction with National Consumer Protection Week, March 3-9, Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge today announced the top 10 most common complaints the Attorney General’s office received in 2018.

National Consumer Protection Week is a partnership with attorneys general from across the country, along with many national organizations, including the Better Business Bureau, Federal Trade Commission and AARP, to encourage consumers to understand their rights and make educated consumer decisions.

“At the Attorney General’s Office, we take every complaint seriously and will work diligently to protect Arkansans and hold bad actors accountable,” said Attorney General Rutledge.

The 10 most common complaint categories from 2018 were:

  • Automobile sales, service financing and repair
  • Sales of goods and services
  • Health care
  • Home repair, construction and maintenance
  • Landlord/tenant and real estate
  • Satellite, cable and internet service providers
  • Wireless and landline telephone services
  • Scams and opportunities
  • Credit repairs and other financial services
  • Utilities

After falling to the number two most received complaint in 2017, automobile-related transactions returned to the most common type of complaint reports to the Attorney General’s office in 2018. Last year, automobile sales, service financing and repairs brought in 1,200 complaints. These types of complaints often involve consumers reporting financing errors; high-pressure tactics to buy add-on services at the time of purchase, such as gap insurance, extended warranties; and sales misrepresentations.

Attorney General Rutledge’s office resolved 5,595 formal complaints in 2018. File a complaint online at ArkansasAG.gov.


For more information and tips to avoid scams and other consumer-related issues, contact the Arkansas Attorney General’s office at (800) 482-8982 or consumer@arkansasag.govor visit ArkansasAG.gov or facebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.
 

 

February 27, 2019

ATTORNEY GENERAL ALERT: Don’t Get Taken for a Ride by Imposter Car Renewal Websites

 LITTLE ROCK – Arkansans are required to annually renew license plate registrations, which can be accomplished online at mydmv.arkansas.gov. Some online companies, however, have created services that may mislead consumers into purchasing material they do not need. This problem occurs when a consumer conducts an internet search and clicks on results for a website that appears to be the Arkansas Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) but is instead an unrelated site that directs consumers to purchase a registration renewal how-to pamphlet and not a registration renewal. If consumers fall victim to this problem, then consumers run the risk of failing to renew their tags by the deadline and spending money unnecessarily.

“Using any site except the legitimate government one ending in dot G-O-V will result in lost time and money,” said Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “At the time of renewal, the DMV mails a reminder letter which includes the correct web address to complete the registration purchase online.”

Attorney General Rutledge released to following tips to ensure safety while making purchases online.

  • Avoid using an internet search to find the DMV’s site, and instead typemydmv.arkansas.gov directly on the URL at the top of the page.
  • When submitting purchase information, look for the “lock” icon on the browser’s status bar, and the phrase “https” in the URL address for a website to be sure information is secure during transmission.
  • Use a secure browser—software that encrypts or scrambles the purchase information you send over the Internet—to help guard the security of your information as it is transmitted to a website. Be sure your browser has the most up-to-date encryption capabilities by using the latest version available from the manufacturer.
  • Check the site’s privacy policy before providing any personal financial information and determine how the information will be used or shared with others. Also check the site’s statements about the security provided for your information. Some websites’ disclosures are easier to find than others—look at the bottom of the home page, on order forms or in the “About” or “FAQs” section of a site.
  • Review monthly credit card and bank statements for any errors or unauthorized purchases promptly and thoroughly. Notify your credit or debit card issuer immediately if your credit or debit card or checkbook is lost or stolen, or if you suspect someone is using your accounts without your permission.
  • Search for the words “official website” and try to avoid clicking on “ads”
  • The misleading websites will often have an attention pop-up on the front page stating that they are not affiliated with any government agency.

For more information and tips to avoid scams and other consumer-related issues, contact the Arkansas Attorney General’s office at (800) 482-8982 or consumer@arkansasag.govor visit ArkansasAG.gov or facebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.

 

February 13, 2019

ATTORNEY GENERAL ALERT: Tax Season IRS Imposters


LITTLE ROCK – Tax season is in full swing and scammers are posing as Internal Revenue Service (IRS) agents and sending emails with fake tax bills and transcripts to Arkansans. These malicious emails often include an attachment that is not a document from the IRS but rather something harmful that will infect the user’s computer with vicious malware once it is opened. The email may even threaten Arkansans with arrest if payment is not received immediately using a gift card, prepaid debit card or wire transfer.

“The IRS will never send unsolicited emails or accept payment from a prepaid gift card or wire transfer,” said Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “This scam to dupe Arkansans out of their hard-earned money, or steal their personal information, is just one more shameful attempt by criminals to line their own pockets.”

Attorney General Rutledge issued the following tips for anyone who receives an email from someone claiming to be from the IRS:

  • Do not reply to the email.
  • Do not open any attachments which can contain malicious code that may infect computers or mobile phones.
  • Do not click on any links.
  • Delete the original email.

Consumers who receive this scam via email should forward it to the IRS atphishing@irs.gov and file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.

For more information and tips to avoid scams and other consumer-related issues, contact the Arkansas Attorney General’s office at (800) 482-8982 or consumer@arkansasag.govor visit ArkansasAG.gov or facebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.

 

February 6, 2019

ATTORNEY GENERAL ALERT: Scammers Seek Money Not Love On Dating Apps

LITTLE ROCK – Valentine’s Day is another opportunity for scam artists to take advantage of Arkansans putting their heart and money on the line to find love. Con artists are using dating apps, often pretending to be someone they aren’t, with false pictures and information, to get the attention of others with the intent of stealing money from the kind-hearted people they meet on these sites.

“Arkansans should have the opportunity to meet new people without the fear of someone taking advantage of them and their wallets,” said Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “On dating sites, Arkansans must be cautious and keep personal information private. Con artists know how to play on emotions to convince people they need help when they are only wanting to steal money and identities to open credit accounts.”

Attorney General Rutledge released the following tips for social media users:

  • It’s called personal information for a reason—keep it to yourself!
  • Do not give out personal information such as addresses and telephone numbers.
  • Consider speaking by telephone before meeting in person, and when meeting in person, make plans to meet new people in a public venue, or bring a friend.
  • Don’t post any information that would let someone know you are away on vacation or your house is empty. Posting about being out of town for a few days could make someone a likely target for thieves.
  • Don’t post any information that can lead hackers to passwords for online banking or other accounts. For example, common questions for those who have forgotten their passwords for financial or other sites include: “What’s your mother’s maiden name?” or “What’s your favorite pet?” Criminals may be able to find those answers easily on social networking sites.

The Attorney General’s office provides a tip card for consumers, information for parents to spot cyberbullying and offers a Parent’s Guide to Internet Safety. Community educators are also available to present an internet safety program to parents and educators across the state.

For more information about other common scams and consumer-related issues, please call the Arkansas Attorney General’s office at (800) 482-8982 or visit ArkansasAG.gov or facebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.

 

January 2, 2019

ATTORNEY GENERAL ALERT: Be a Smart Consumer in 2019

 LITTLE ROCK – Many Arkansans are setting their new year’s resolutions for 2019, but scam artists also see the new year as an opportunity to take advantage of unsuspecting Arkansans. In the new year, scammers will continue to pose as someone they are not and try to steal personal and financial information, convince Arkansans they won a prize in exchange for a fee, trick consumers into believing they have debt that must be paid by gift cards, and many more variations on common scams.

“Arkansans must remain vigilant to keep their private information out of the hands of thieves,” said Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “Bad actors will continue to do bad deeds, but there are steps Arkansans can take to protect themselves and spot a potential scam before being victimized.”

Attorney General Rutledge released the following tips to spot a scam:

  • Don’t answer a call from an unknown number.
  • Wiring money is like giving cash away. There is no protection for consumers if the recipient is not who he or she claimed to be.
  • Never give out personal or banking information in response to a phone, email or mail inquiry. Contact the entity requesting the information directly through a different method to verify that it is a reputable company and to confirm the request.
  • When purchasing items or services online, make sure to research the seller and know his or her physical location.
  • If making a charitable contribution, give to an organization that has a strong history in providing relief. Instead of paying in cash, make a check or money order payable to the organization, not an individual.
  • Most importantly, if the offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Investigate the offer before accepting or paying any money.

For more information about other common scams and consumer-related issues, please call the Arkansas Attorney General’s office at (800) 482-8982 or visit ArkansasAG.gov or facebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.

 

December 26, 2018

ATTORNEY GENERAL ALERT: Gift Return Problems Can Put a Chill on the Holidays

LITTLE ROCK – Returning or exchanging gifts received during the holidays can be stressful and difficult if consumers do not educate themselves on company return policies before making purchases.

“An unknown and complicated return policy can spoil some of the holiday fun and hurt your pocketbook,” said Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “Arkansans should learn return policies prior to attempting returns. Some retailers generously allow shoppers to make returns for any reason, which can lead consumers to wrongly believe they are entitled, by law, to a full refund or credit, but that is not always the case.”

Attorney General Rutledge released the following tips for gift recipients needing to make a return or exchange this holiday season:

  • Ask the merchant about the store’s return or exchange policy.
  • Keep all gift and purchase receipts.
  • If considering returning, do not open the box or remove the tags.
  • Some online retailers allow purchases to be returned in-store, while others require the item to be shipped back. Check with the merchant ahead of time.

As a gesture of goodwill, most companies offer in-store exchanges if the customer has the receipt and the item is promptly returned. However, others have an “all sales are final” policy for deeply discounted or clearance items and do not allow returns or exchanges. Return policies not only differ from store to store but can also differ for items purchased in-store and items bought online or by mail order.

Some retailers that allow returns may charge restocking fees for certain products. Consumers can sometimes pay a fee of 10 to 25 percent of the price of the item if the package is not in the condition in which it was purchased. Meanwhile, items like computer software, CDs, DVDs and Blu-Ray discs are not generally returnable after the seal has been broken.

Retailers are not required to accept at-will returns, and even in the case of a defective product, consumers may be required to contact the manufacturer. Sometimes retailers will require consumers to deal with the product manufacturer directly, rather than simply returning the item to the place of purchase.

The National Retail Federation estimates holiday spending to increase at least 4.3 percent to $720.89 billion this year.
For more information about other common scams and consumer-related issues, please call the Arkansas Attorney General’s office at (800) 482-8982 or visit ArkansasAG.gov or facebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.

 

December 12, 2018

ATTORNEY GENERAL ALERT: Mystery Shopper Scam Can Steal Money

LITTLE ROCK – During the holiday season, scammers are targeting Arkansans who may be looking to make some extra money. These con artists often use the so-called mystery shopper scam to take Arkansans’ hard-earned money, with the promise of getting more in return.

“Mystery shopping is a legitimate opportunity that retailers use to evaluate their services,” said Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “Although this scam has different variations, becoming a mystery shopper does not cost anything upfront, and retailers will not contact potential mystery shoppers on an unsolicited basis. Arkansans should be wary of any organization asking for money prior to making mystery shopper work assignments and should ignore mystery shopper checks and instructions asking the consumer to deposit the money, purchase gift cards, and then send all or a portion to a third party.”

Attorney General Rutledge released the following list from the Federal Trade Commissionof red flags that a mystery shopping opportunity may not be legitimate:

  • The opportunity is advertised in a newspaper’s ‘help wanted’ section or by email.
  • The business requires “certification” to be purchased ahead of time.
  • A mystery shopper job is guaranteed.
  • A website charges a fee to access mystery shopping opportunities.
  • A directory of companies that hire mystery shoppers is available for purchase.
  • The seller asks to deposit a check and wire some or all of the money to a third party.

The Mystery Shopping Providers Association offers a database search of mystery shopper assignments and how to apply for them. The organization offers certification programs for a fee, but the certification is not needed to look or apply for assignments in the database.

Arkansans should avoid wiring money to strangers or anyone outside the country and should never send prepaid gift cards or give the serial number of a loaded gift card based on any unsolicited phone call.

For more information about other common scams and consumer-related issues, please call the Arkansas Attorney General’s office at (800) 482-8982 or visit ArkansasAG.gov orfacebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.

 

December 5, 2018

ATTORNEY GENERAL ALERT: Data Breaches Put Arkansans at Risk

 LITTLE ROCK – Marriott and the United States Postal Service are just two of the recent companies that have announced data breaches, putting private consumer information at risk. The Attorney General’s Office has received a number of calls from concerned Arkansans, and Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge encourages Arkansans who feel their information may have been compromised to contact the office atArkansasAG.gov.

“Arkansans’ identities have been put at risk due to these data breaches,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “I urge anyone with questions, or anyone who has been notified that your information was compromised, to please contact my office because I am here to do the fighting for you.”

Identity theft becomes a major concern following data breaches whether consumers utilize computers directly or not. Identity theft occurs when an unauthorized individual uses another person’s information to commit fraud or other crimes, most commonly to obtain access to credit in the victim’s name. If successful, scammers can severely damage the victim’s credit and steal his or her hard-earned money.

Attorney General Rutledge released the following tips to help Arkansans recognize when they might be a victim of identity theft:

  • Receiving unexpected bills or collection calls. Getting an account statement for an unauthorized account is an indication that an individual may be the victim of identity theft. Likewise, getting collection calls from a creditor or debt collector regarding an unauthorized account is an indication of potential identity theft.
  • Not receiving expected bills or account statements. If a monthly credit card statement stops, this could be an indication that someone has stolen mail or changed an account statement mailing address. Promptly report this to the account provider.
  • Having a credit application denied when there is no reason to believe there is a problem with the credit history. Be sure to periodically review the credit report, and always review it again before making an application for credit on a big purchase.

If you have been a victim of identity theft, close accounts that have been tampered with or fraudulently opened, and file a complaint with the FTC. The Attorney General’s office also offers an ID Theft Passport to help victims reestablish their good name, which requires that consumers first file a police report for financial identity theft.
For more information about other common scams and consumer-related issues, please call the Arkansas Attorney General’s office at (800) 482-8982 or visit ArkansasAG.gov orfacebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.

 

November 21, 2018

ATTORNEY GENERAL ALERT: Avoid At-Home Dangers During the Holiday Season

LITTLE ROCK – Decking the halls for the upcoming holiday season can quickly become dangerous. If Arkansans do not use extreme caution, injuries can easily occur. Caution and planning can help avoid unnecessary accidents and injuries, which can interrupt holiday fun.

“It is important that we make personal safety a priority, even during the happy holiday planning,” said Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “Accidents happen, but many are preventable. Small mistakes that we may consider insignificant, can lead to dangerous problems through carelessness. Most accidents are avoidable by taking extra time during preparations.”

Attorney General Rutledge released the following tips for Arkansans planning to hang lights this holiday season:

  • Select lights with labels indicating they have been safety tested by independent laboratories.
  • Check each set of lights. Look for broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires or loose connections. Discard or repair them, if necessary, before use.
  • When using lights outdoors, make sure they are certified for outdoor use and are securely fastened to protect against damaging winds.
  • Only use insulated staples or hoods to affix lights. Never use nails or tacks.
  • Do not use more than three standard-sized sets of lights per extension cord, and ensure that each extension cord is rated for the intended use.
  • Always turn off or unplug lights when you go to bed or leave your home.
  • Never use electric lights on a metallic tree.
  • Never leave a candle unattended and keep them on a stable surface and away from items that can burn easily, like trees, decorations, curtains and furniture. 

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates more than 14,500 emergency room visits for falls, lacerations and back strains while decorating for the holidays. Meanwhile, fires are also a concern with burning candles and fresh Christmas trees that are not properly watered.

Use caution when climbing ladders and make sure all locks are properly engaged, keep your body near the middle of the step and face the ladder while climbing. Avoid using the top step of the ladder unless it was designed of that purpose.

For more information about other common scams and consumer-related issues, please call the Arkansas Attorney General’s office at (800) 482-8982 or visit ArkansasAG.gov or facebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.

 

November 14, 2018

ATTORNEY GENERAL ALERT: Beware of Holiday Season Scam Artists Using Legitimate-Sounding Charity Names

 LITTLE ROCK – The holidays bring out the best in Arkansans, but there are some who try to take advantage of our kind hearts by posing as a charitable organization helping Arkansans during the holiday season. Scam artists can use similar-sounding names to legitimate charities and may often be pushy, but provide little information.

“Arkansans are known for generosity during the holiday season,” said Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “While Giving Tuesday is a big day for donations, we know Americans often give more than on just one allotted day. Leading up to the season of giving, it is important for each of us to thoroughly research where we send our money to ensure that it is helping the most people possible.”

Attorney General Rutledge released the following tips to help consumers give to only legitimate charities:

  • Do not fall prey to high-pressure sales tactics as they are often the first sign of an unscrupulous and fraudulent charity.
  • Before getting out a checkbook or credit card in response to a phone solicitation, make attempts to determine the validity of the organization by conducting research.
  • Get the organization’s name, address, website and phone number, or give directly to a known nonprofit of your choice. Make sure the nonprofit organization is registered with the Arkansas Secretary of State.
  • Use GuideStar.org to compare nonprofit organizations and to get more information.
  • Ask the organization how it will spend your donation.
  • Watch out for similar but different organization names as some con artists will use names similar to those of existing, reputable nonprofits in order to trick consumers.
  • Do not give out financial or personal information over the phone or through email to an unknown entity. This information could fall into the wrong hands, or the scammers could use it to steal your money or identity.
  • Never send cash. Make check or credit card payments for increased security and tax purposes.
  • If donating via text message, verify the organization’s number prior to sending information.

For more information about other common scams and consumer-related issues, please call the Arkansas Attorney General’s office at (800) 482-8982 or visit ArkansasAG.gov orfacebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.

 

October 31, 2018

ATTORNEY GENERAL ALERT: Low Temperatures Can Mean Higher Savings

 LITTLE ROCK – As fall season kicks into high gear, temperatures drop which means home heating costs begin impacting families’ budgets across Arkansas. But there are steps consumers can take to stay warm and save money.

“By taking a few practical steps we can find the balance of keeping warm and saving money,” said Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “It is unknown what winter will bring this year, but as temperatures drop, keeping energy costs down is important to every family.”

Attorney General Rutledge released the following tips to save energy costs through the colder months:

  • Keep curtains open during the day for natural heat, and close them at night to retain the heat.
  • Use a programmable thermostat to automatically lower the temperature when no one is home.
  • Seal cracks or holes around the home by weather-stripping doors and windows and adding insulation to walls, the attic and crawlspace to prevent it from losing heat.
  • Set ceiling fans to spin clockwise to recirculate rising warm air.
  • Make sure baseboard heaters, air vents and radiators are not obstructed.
  • Service the heating system at least once a year to ensure it is operating properly.
  • Consult with a licensed plumber regarding potential options to insulate the water heater to spend less to heat the water.
  • Close the vents and doors to rooms that are not being used.
  • Keep air filters clean and replace regularly.

Use caution while using space heaters. Always keep them away from flammable materials and consider the impact it could have on the energy bill. The Department of Energyreports that space heaters account for about 45 percent of energy bills in average U.S. homes.

Also, be cautious of products claiming to drastically lower heating costs and avoid unsolicited high-pressure sales calls for visits from contractors offering furnaces, windows, roofing and other home-improvement projects. Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is.

Arkansans having trouble paying heating or electricity bills this winter should learn more about the Weatherization Assistance Program.

 For more information about other common scams and consumer-related issues, please call the Arkansas Attorney General’s office at (800) 482-8982 or visit ArkansasAG.gov orfacebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.

 

October 17, 2018

ATTORNEY GENERAL ALERT: Statewide Prescription Drug Take Back is October 27

 LITTLE ROCK – The prescription drug epidemic is wreaking havoc across our state and country. More than half of Arkansas teens report it is easy to obtain prescription drugs from their parents’ or grandparents’ medicine cabinets. The bi-annual Prescription Drug Take Back Day is the ideal opportunity to turn in unused and expired medication, to ensure it stays out of the hands of addicted Arkansans.

“Parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles have unknowingly become drug dealers to family members,” said Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “Properly disposing of medication is imperative and can save the lives of family members, friends and fellow Arkansans. This epidemic impacts a staggering number of families across Arkansas and it takes action by all of us to make a difference.”

Attorney General Rutledge is reminding Arkansans about the national Prescription Drug Take Back Event and the various drop-off locations available from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 27. The National Prescription Drug Take Back Days are held twice a year, but to find event sites and year-round drop-off locations near you, visit ARTakeBack.org.

Rutledge released the following list of medications that will be accepted at these events across the State:

·       Opioids, such as OxyContin, Hydrocodone, Vicodin, etc.
·       Stimulants, such as Adderall, Ritalin, Concerta, Dexedrine, etc.
·       Depressants, such as Ativan, Xanax, Valium, etc.
·       Other prescription medications
·       Over-the-counter medicines
·       Vitamins
·       Pet medicines
·       Medicated ointments and lotions
·       Inhalers
·       Liquid medicines in glass or leak-proof containers (up to 12 ounces)
·       Medicine samples

Medications may be returned in the original bottle or in any other container for increased privacy.

Properly destroying these medications also protects the environment. Medicines that are flushed or poured down the drain can end up polluting waters, which could contaminate food and water supplies. Wastewater treatment plants or septic systems may not remove many medicine compounds. Turning over these medications at Take Back Day events also reduces the risk of accidental poisonings by children, seniors or pets, as well as reduces the risk of drug abuse.

The Attorney General’s Office also partners with local law enforcement to host take back events at mobile offices around the State. Since 2016, 611.2 pounds of prescription drugs have been collected and safely disposed of by Attorney General’s office mobile offices – keeping them out of the hands of children and those with addictions.

Rutledge is partnering on the Prescription Drug Take Back with the Arkansas Department of Health, Arkansas Department of Human Services, Arkansas National Guard, Arkansas Rotary Clubs, Arkansas State Board of Pharmacy, FBI, Office of the State Drug Director, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and over 130 additional law enforcement and government agencies, community organizations and public health providers.

Prescription Drug Take Back days are just one step in Rutledge’s multi-faceted approach of education, prevention and litigation to end the opioid crisis. Last fall, Rutledge launched Prescription for Life, a first-in-the-nation educational tool offered at no cost to all high school students in the State to help them understand the dangers of prescription drug misuse and how to prevent abuse. To date, it has been launched in 80 schools, across 60 counties and reached over 8,600 students. Rutledge has a new initiative, called #Rx4LifeStories, inviting Arkansans to submit videos discussing how the nation’s opioid epidemic has impacted their lives and the lives of their families.

Rutledge is also suing the opioid manufacturers that created the crisis in Arkansas for violations of the Arkansas Deceptive Trade Practices Act and the Arkansas Medicaid Fraud False Claims Act.

Each year, Rutledge partners with a number of agencies in hosting the Arkansas Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention Summit. The summit is a free training and educational opportunity for law enforcement officers, medical professionals, pharmacists and educators. The seventh annual Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention Summit is scheduled for Nov. 1 in Hot Springs, with more than 800 taking advantage of registration.

 For more information about other common scams and consumer-related issues, please call the Arkansas Attorney General’s office at (800) 482-8982 or visit ArkansasAG.gov orfacebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.

 

October 10, 2018

ATTORNEY GENERAL ALERT: Online Services May Not Be All That They Appear

 LITTLE ROCK – From food delivery to job applications, many services are available online rather than requiring Arkansans to visit a storefront, but the quality of services may diminish if completed online rather than in person. Some companies are offering medical services online, including eye and hearing exams, potentially decreasing the accuracy of the services.

“Arkansans should take advantage of advances in technology often to make our busy lives easier,” said Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “But we should all do our due diligence to research companies and apps to ensure that the services are accurate, effective and legitimate.”

Attorney General Rutledge released the following tips for consumers who decide to pay for services online:

  • Check the site’s privacy policy before providing any personal financial information and determine how the information will be used or shared with others. Also check the site’s statements about the security provided for your information. Some websites’ disclosures are easier to find than others — look at the bottom of the home page, on order forms or in the “About” or “FAQs” section of a site.
  • Pay by credit card, the most secure way. Under federal law, you can dispute the charges if you do not get what you were promised. You may also dispute unauthorized charges on your credit card. Many credit card issuers have “zero liability” policies under which you pay nothing if someone steals and uses your credit card.
  • Keep personal information private. Do not disclose personal information – address, telephone number, Social Security number, bank account number or email address – unless you know who is collecting the information, why they are collecting it and how they will use it.
  • Review monthly credit card and bank statements for any errors or unauthorized purchases promptly and thoroughly. Notify your credit or debit card issuer immediately if your credit or debit card or checkbook is lost or stolen, or if you suspect someone is using your accounts without your permission.

Rutledge encourages Arkansans to check a business’s status with the Attorney General’s Office or the Better Business Bureau to ensure its legitimacy.

For more information about other common scams and consumer-related issues, please call the Arkansas Attorney General’s office at (800) 482-8982 or visit ArkansasAG.gov orfacebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.

 

October 3, 2018

ATTORNEY GENERAL ALERT: Military Service Members Can Vote Absentee

 LITTLE ROCK – Voting at the ballot box is an important right for all Americans, including our active duty military men and women, and their families. But voting absentee may be confusing and often an option some may not be aware of. The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act ensures voting eligibility in the military member’s state of legal residence.

 “The deadline is quickly approaching to register to vote to be able to cast a vote in November’s general election,” said Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “It is important that all Arkansans have their voices heard in November, including our military service members who are currently stationed outside of their home State or country. Absentee ballots can be requested by contacting the county clerk where the service member is registered to vote.”

 Attorney General Rutledge shares Arkansas Secretary of State Mark Martin’s list of qualifications for voting absentee:

·       The voter will be unavoidably absent from the polling site on election day.

·       The voter will be unable to attending the polling site on election day due to illness or physical disability.

·       The member of the Uniformed Services, merchant marines, spouse or a dependent family member are away from the polling location due to the member’s active duty status.

·       A U.S. citizen whose residence is in Arkansas but is temporarily living outside the territorial limits of the United States is eligible to vote absentee.

 According to the Arkansas Secretary of State’s Elections Division, absentee ballots can be delivered through either the U.S. Postal Service or Ballot Safe, a secure online website. If the military service member decides to download the ballot instead of receiving a hard copy, the ballot will need to be printed, filled out and mailed to the county clerk, postmarked by Election Day, Nov. 6.

 Military and family members are eligible to vote in their state of legal residence. This could be an original address, or the families can change their legal residence at each permanent duty station change. The American Bar Association encourages military families to keep voter registration, vehicle registration and State of legal residence the same for tax purposes.

 For more information about other common scams and consumer-related issues, please call the Arkansas Attorney General’s office at (800) 482-8982 or visit ArkansasAG.gov orfacebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.

 

September 26, 2018

ATTORNEY GENERAL ALERT: Flood-Damaged Vehicles Make Their Way to Arkansas

LITTLE ROCK – While the damage from Hurricane Florence was mostly concentrated to the Carolinas, the effects may be felt across the country as bad actors line their own pockets by selling water-damaged items and vehicles.

“Unfortunately Arkansas has some unscrupulous car dealers who may not follow Arkansas law by providing the proper documentation when selling water-damaged vehicles,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “It is common for these sellers to try to take advantage of consumers by selling damaged out-of-state vehicles without proper disclosure.”

Consumers should review a vehicle’s title for any flood damage reports. Arkansas law requires dealerships to place a separate disclosure in the window of cars for sale that have previously been submerged, but consumers should be careful if purchasing a vehicle through a private sale. Although the private seller is required by Arkansas law to notify the buyer of any flood damage, a posted disclosure is not mandatory for this type of transaction.

Attorney General Rutledge released the following tips for Arkansans to consider before purchasing a new or used vehicle that could have been involved in the recent flooding.

  • Ask the seller if the car has been damaged by hail or flood waters, and always check the car’s title history.
  • Inspect the vehicle for water stains and mildew in the vents and behind the dashboard. Also look under the hood for signs of oxidation.
  • Flood damaged cars may look fine because of cosmetic repairs, but they may have defective electrical systems, steering problems, faulty computers, faulty air bag systems and persistent mold problems.
  • Have the car inspected by your own mechanic before you decide to buy.
  • If the car has experienced significant damage and is considered a salvagevehicle, a buyer’s notification should be posted, and the price should be much lower than the price of a similar car with a clean title. Consider that you may have difficulty later selling a salvage vehicle and its value will be compromised.

Consumers who believe they have been sold a flood-damaged item that was not advertised as such should file a complaint with the Attorney General’s Office.

For more information about other common scams and consumer-related issues, please call the Arkansas Attorney General’s office at (800) 482-8982 or visit ArkansasAG.gov orfacebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.

 

September 19, 2018

ATTORNEY GENERAL ALERT: Research Charities When Giving to Hurricane Florence Victims

 LITTLE ROCK – Scenes of destruction left by Hurricane Florence in North Carolina and South Carolina have left many Arkansans wanting to find a way to help. But Arkansans should use caution and take time to research, ensuring their donations are actually used toward helping our fellow Americans. Following natural disasters, the Attorney General’s Office often receives reports of unscrupulous “charities” targeting the kind and generous spirit of Arkansans wanting to assist those in need.

“Scammers often create fake organizations by selecting a name and logo similar to an existing, legitimate organization that actually helps those in need,” said Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “These scammers provide limited information, while still trying to tug at the heartstrings of potential donors to convince them the ‘charity’ is legitimate. Arkansans must remain vigilant and do research to know how their money will be used.”

Attorney General Rutledge released the following tips to help consumer give to only legitimate charities:

  • Do not fall prey to high-pressure sales tactics as they are often the first sign of an unscrupulous and fraudulent charity.
  • Before getting out a checkbook or credit card in response to a phone solicitation, make attempts to determine the validity of the organization by conducting research.
  • Get the organization’s name, address, website and phone number, or give directly to a known nonprofit of your choice. Make sure the nonprofit organization is registered with the Arkansas Secretary of State.
  • Use GuideStar.org to compare nonprofit organizations and to get more information.
  • Ask the organization how it will spend your donation.
  • Watch out for similar but different organization names as some con artists will use names like those of existing, reputable nonprofits in order to trick consumers.
  • Do not give out financial or personal information over the phone or through email to an unknown entity. This information could fall into the wrong hands, or the scammers could use it to steal your money or identity.
  • Never send cash. Make check or credit card payments for increased security and tax purposes.
  • If donating via text message, verify the organization’s number prior to sending information.

Also be wary of charities that pop up quickly in response to Hurricane Florence and other emergencies. Even if they are legitimate, they oftentimes do not have a system in place to get donations to those in need. Consider giving to an established organization which helps disaster victims in the area.

For more information about other common scams and consumer-related issues, please call the Arkansas Attorney General’s office at (800) 482-8982 or visit ArkansasAG.gov orfacebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.

 

September 12, 2018

ATTORNEY GENERAL ALERT: Scammers Stealing Arkansans’ Social Security Numbers

 LITTLE ROCK – Consumers should be on alert for persons calling and claiming to be government officials. The Attorney General’s Office has received complaints of callers claiming to be from the Internal Revenue Service and even the Attorney General’s Office. And now Arkansans are reporting receiving calls from someone claiming to be with the Social Security Administration and requesting social security numbers and bank account information.

“The government will never call consumers requesting financial information,” said Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “If the caller is requesting personal or financial information and claiming to be a government agency, hang up, find the phone number from an official source and call the agency directly. It is important for Arkansans to know who they are talking to at the other end of the phone line.”

Attorney General Rutledge and the Federal Trade Commission released the following tips for Arkansans who may be dealing with a government imposter:

  • Never give out or confirm sensitive information, such as bank account, credit card or Social Security numbers, unless the caller is trusted and his/her identity has been confirmed.
  • Be cautious of callers using organization names similar to existing agencies. Scammers use internet technology to spoof area codes, so although it may seem the call is from Washington, D.C., it could originate from anywhere in the world.
  • The Social Security Administration and other government agencies have warned about these scams and suggest contacting the agency directly.

The Social Security Administration can be contacted at 1-800-772-1213 to verify the reason for the contact and the person’s identity prior to providing any information to the caller.

To report this scam to the Social Security Administration, contact its Fraud Hotline at 1-800-269-0271, or file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.

For more information about other common scams and consumer-related issues, please call the Arkansas Attorney General’s office at (800) 482-8982 or visit ArkansasAG.gov orfacebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.

 

September 6, 2018

Alarm System Scams


LITTLE ROCK – Consumers should be on the alert for door-to-door sales people using scare tactics to sell home alarm systems. The Attorney General’s Office receives complaints against home alarm systems and monitoring services for violations of the Home Solicitations Sales Act, including high pressure sales, misrepresentations of products, failure to provide a copy of the contract and others.

“Arkansas law provides specific protections for consumers purchasing items from a door-to-door salesperson,” said Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “My office is here to protect consumers with education and awareness. At times, this requires legal action to respond to bad actors trying to take advantage of Arkansans.”

Attorney General Rutledge provided the below tips for consumers to help spot an unscrupulous door-to-door salesperson:

  • Consumers have a right to review the contract outside the presence of the sales agent, and cancel the contract without obligation within three days of the home solicitation sale. The sales agent must provide the consumer written notice of this right to cancel along with the proposed contract.
  • High-pressure tactics are rarely employed by companies whose business depends on providing quality customer service.  A legitimate company will allow consumers to weigh options and will review the system details and notification procedures.
  • The solicitor may suggest the existing security system needs an “upgrade,” when the salesperson actually represents a different company.  This may lead a homeowner to believe the system must be “upgraded” just to remain reliable.
  • The salesperson offers “free installation.” The homeowner may think it is a bargain, but many “free installation” offers are coupled with long-term, high-cost monitoring contracts. In the long run, the “free” offer may be the most expensive of all.

Arkansans who may have been victimized by these practices are encouraged to contact the Public Protection Department of the Attorney General’s Office.

Last week, Rutledge filed a lawsuit against Alert America LLC for violating the Arkansas Deceptive Trade Practices Act. Alert America sold third-party alarm monitoring services, and many of its contracts included prepaid service contracts. When Alert America closed its business, it failed to remit payments to the third party, leaving Arkansans with discontinued services they had prepaid. The Attorney General’s Office has discovered at least 67 affected Arkansans. Some consumers reported losing more than $1,000.

For more information and tips to avoid scams and other consumer-related issues, contact the Arkansas Attorney General’s office at (800) 482-8982 or consumer@arkansasag.govor visit ArkansasAG.gov or facebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.

 

August 29, 2018

ATTORNEY GENERAL ALERT: The IRS Scam Picks Up Speed Again


LITTLE ROCK – Scammers are dusting off the IRS scam and intimidating Arkansans once again by trying to convince innocent consumers that they owe back taxes that must be paid immediately. Consumers have recently been contacting the Attorney General’s office reporting that the scammers are spoofing phone numbers and posing as the IRS.

“Scammers continually use new strategies to frighten Arkansans,” said Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “There are various versions of this scam. Consumers should know that the IRS may send multiple letters, but will never make threatening phone calls.”

The IRS continues to remind consumers that these scam calls are recognizable and that the agency will not do the following:

  • Call demanding immediate payment. The IRS will not call if taxes are owed without first sending a bill in the mail.
  • Demand that taxes are paid without providing the individual the opportunity to question or appeal the amount owed.
  • Require a specific form of tax payment. For example, the IRS will not demand payment by prepaid debit card.
  • Ask consumers for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.
  • Threaten to bring in police or other agencies to make an arrest for not paying taxes.

The IRS encourages Arkansans to not to give out personal information during any unsolicited phone call from the IRS and to hang up immediately, contact the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at (800) 366-4484 to report the call and file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. The agency also requests that any scam emails be forwarded to phishing@irs.gov.

The IRS encourages Arkansans with any questions about owed taxes to contact their office directly at (800) 829-1040.

August 22, 2018

Student Loan Forgiveness Scams

LITTLE ROCK – Many college students take out loans to help pay for higher education, but scammers prey on those in debt with student loan forgiveness “programs.” Scammers will pose as government agencies offering to help with complicated federal student loan debt or claim to be independent organizations that are aware of new changes in repayment programs. But offers that do not come from an assigned federal loan servicer are a scam.

“Student loan debt can be intimidating,” said Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “Con artists often make unrealistic promises, such as drastically reducing or doing away with monthly payments altogether. While this may seem attractive at first, it can be detrimental in the long run, accumulating interest and potentially sliding into default. Some of these scammers will even charge for their assistance.”

Attorney General Rutledge released the following red flags of a student loan forgiveness scam:

  • Borrowers are instructed to stop paying on the loans
  • Borrowers are offered a promise of guaranteed reduced payments and/or loan forgiveness
  • The scammer requests Federal Student Aid username or passwords (FSA ID)
  • Borrowers are instructed to ignore letters or emails from a federal loan servicer
  • The scammer stressed the difficulty for the average person to navigate the Federal Student Aid system

If Arkansans believe they have been a victim of one of these companies, they should contact the federal loan service and update account information by changing all passwords and cancel any automatic withdrawal payments.

Financial aid basics and student loan repayment questions can be answered atStudentLoans.gov. The National Student Loan Data System is the Department of Education’s central database and has information for the specific federal loan servicer assigned to collect student loan payments.

For more information and tips to avoid scams and other consumer-related issues, contact the Arkansas Attorney General’s office at (800) 482-8982 or consumer@arkansasag.govor visit ArkansasAG.gov or facebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.

August 15, 2018

Google Tracking Locations

LITTLE ROCK – Simply turning off the Location History for Google accounts does not stop the tech company from tracking a user’s location. According to an investigation published this week by the Associated Press, Google can track time-stamped location data from devices when the maps feature, browser or even the weather app is opened. But there is a way to stop the company from tracking locations.

“Google is a popular web browser and email provider across the country,” said Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “While we often expect privacy from these companies, in reality we must take extra steps to turn off location functions to prevent the company from peering into our daily schedules.”

Attorney General Rutledge released the following information about Google’s location tracking:

  • Location tracking is necessary to use some phone apps such as Google Maps.
  • Location tracking can be helpful when searching for information like the weather, shopping, restaurants and lodging.
  • For most apps, location setting options such as “always,” “while using the app” or “never” are available.  An explanation of these terms can be found in the app settings.
  • Changes need to be made to the Google account to turn off location tracking.
  • To turn off location tracking, Google users can open the account, access account information from the drop down menu at the top right corner. iPhone users may click on Personal Info & Privacy, go to My Activity, openActivity Controls and turn off the toggle at Web & App Activity. (Android users can find this under Data & Personalization.)

For more information and tips to avoid scams and other consumer-related issues, contact the Arkansas Attorney General’s office at (800) 482-8982 or consumer@arkansasag.govor visit ArkansasAG.gov or facebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.

 

August 8, 2018

ATTORNEY GENERAL ALERT: Don’t Get Schooled by Credit Card Debt

LITTLE ROCK – Many young adults entering college or the workforce feel the pressure of looming bills and turn to credit cards to cover the initial costs but end up paying exorbitant rates long-term. Understanding that credit cards are not free and will only alleviate temporary financial burdens is an important concept for newly independent students. Accumulating credit card debt is avoidable; unfortunately, new users often fall victim to debt that hurts their ability to invest in personal pursuits like obtaining home loans and other financing in later years.

“Credit cards can be helpful but new users may not be fully aware of the costly terms and conditions,” says Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “Forgetting to make a payment or exceeding a card’s limit can be devastating to a consumer’s credit score, having a detrimental impact on long-term plans to buy a house or car.”

As preventative strategies to young adults interested in applying for a credit card, Rutledge offers this advice when using a card:

  • Submit payments on time. Making regular payments is the best way to improve a credit score and qualify for less expensive credit.
  • Pay the whole balance owed if possible. Although it may seem easier to pay the minimum, doing so costs more in the long run, and it will take much longer to pay off the debt.
  • Do not “max out” a credit card. Charging the full credit limit is risky, and it will affect a consumer’s credit score.
  • Do not respond to every tempting credit card offer. Using too much credit could lead to having uncontrollable debt.
  • Read the fine print as some credit cards include expensive annual fees and higher interest rates in exchange for incentives like airline miles and bonus points. Some credit cards offer other services such as lower annual percentage rates, insurance and other items at no cost.

To protect college students from coercive credit card companies and debt, the Arkansas General Assembly enacted legislation in 1999 that restricts the practice of marketing credit cards on college campuses.

College students are further protected by the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act, which restricts the marketing of credit cards on campuses nationwide. The advertisement of credit card within 1,000 feet of a college campus or university event is prohibited. In addition, consumers under the age of 21 are required to include a parent’s signature, further binding the parent or guardian to repay debt incurred by the account. Credit card companies are also forbidden from using gifts as a form of persuasion to bribe younger consumers into applying for a card.

For more information and tips to avoid scams and other consumer-related issues, contact the Arkansas Attorney General’s office at (800) 482-8982 or consumer@arkansasag.govor visit ArkansasAG.gov or facebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.

August 1, 2018

ATTORNEY GENERAL ALERT: Preparation can Lower the Cost of Expensive Back-to-School Shopping

LITTLE ROCK – Parents across Arkansas have been gearing up and saving money for back-to-school shopping, but supplies and clothes can be expensive, especially if parents do not take the time to price shop. From school supplies, to new gadgets and clothes, money quickly adds up.

“Back-to-school shopping can be stressful and financially straining for Arkansans,” said Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “But taking the time to compare prices, taking advantage of the best deals and only buying the necessities can save a lot of money.”

Attorney General Rutledge released the following tips for parents who are back-to-school shopping:

  • Stick to the teacher-approved school supply list. Do not waste time and money on unlisted, impulse items that may never be used.
  • Research prices ahead of time. Use price comparison apps or websites to check best available prices in real time. Or shop end-of-summer sales. Also consider that many stores will price-match better deals from other retailers.
  • Check school supply deals at supermarkets and scope out the office supply items before going to the back-to-school section. More items could be in stock for a better price.
  • For larger, more expensive items like sports equipment, electronics or musical instruments, consider buying used or refurbished.
  • Ask about and understand a store’s return policy, and recognize sometimes a box cannot be returned once it is opened.
  • If shopping online, only purchase items on a secure website. Determine whether a website is secure by looking for a “lock” icon in a browser’s status bar and the letters “https” at the start of the website’s URL.
  • Consider paying for online purchases with a credit card. Consumers are allowed under federal law to dispute those charges and cardholders may have no liability if a card is stolen fraudulently and used.

Some providers and companies offer student discounts on wireless service, cell phones, tablets and other electronics. Check with the provider to determine available discounts.

Arkansas’s sales tax holiday, which suspends state and local tax on certain school supplies and clothing, is Aug. 4 and 5.

According to the National Retail Federation, families spent nearly $84 billion in back-to-school and back-to-college spending last year. Meanwhile, they estimate $685 in spending per child in grades K-12.

For more information and tips to avoid scams and other consumer related issues, contact the Arkansas Attorney General’s office at (800) 482-8982 or consumer@arkansasag.govor visit ArkansasAG.gov or facebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.

 

July 26, 2018

ATTORNEY GENERAL ALERT: Fake Military Charities Steal from Arkansans


LITTLE ROCK – Scammers have been stealing money from Arkansans by posing as veteran charities and requesting charitable donations. These scams result in money paid to the pockets of scammers rather than the veterans charities that rely on them. Last week, Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge announced a new donor education campaign partnership with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and all 50 states.Operation Donate with Honor was launched to help consumers recognize charitable solicitation fraud and identify legitimate charities. In addition to the new campaign, the Arkansas Attorney General’s Office also offers advice to distinguish between fake and real charities.

“Con artists are savvy and may use names similar to already existing, trustworthy charities,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “If Arkansans know the correct questions to ask, a scam can usually be spotted. This new partnership is one more way to get the word out and ensure that Arkansans’ hard-earned money is actually helping veterans and our brave service men and women.”

Attorney General Rutledge released the following tips to help consumers ensure an organization’s legitimacy before giving money:

  • Ask questions before giving. Only give when comfortable that the donation will support a trustworthy organization or activity. Refuse high-pressure appeals. Legitimate charities will not rush a donation.
  • Ask for written information or research the organization online. A legitimate charity will send information that provides the organization’s mission and how the donation will be used, along with proof that the contribution is tax deductible.
  • Call the charity directly. To avoid falling victim to sham solicitors, personally contact the charity before giving a donation by email, to the person knocking at the front door or to a telephone solicitor to ensure it is not a scam.
  • Do not send cash. For security and tax records, make donations by check or credit card.
  • Search the Arkansas Charities Database for more information on charities in Arkansas, including those benefiting service members and their families.

Rutledge and the FTC have released a video to highlight tips on how to research charities on giving wisely to veterans organizations.

In 2015, Rutledge launched the first-ever Military and Veterans Initiative at the Attorney General’s office to assist active duty military service members, reservists, veterans and their families with consumer-related issues and many other collaborative efforts.

For more information and tips to avoid scams and other consumer related issues, contact the Arkansas Attorney General’s office at (800) 482-8982 or consumer@arkansasag.govor visit ArkansasAG.gov or facebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.

 

July 19, 2018

GI Bill Available for Military Members Receiving Higher Education

LITTLE ROCK – Current or former military service members should not fall prey to unnecessary high-interest education loan offers. Instead, America’s brave men and women can take advantage of the Forever GI Bill.

“The Forever GI Bill helps veterans and active duty service members continue their education and learn new skills for job opportunities,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “Many of these men and women put their education on hold to serve our country, and this GI Bill ensures that educational opportunities are available when the time is right.”

Attorney General Rutledge has announced that there are many types of programs available under the GI Bill, such as:

  • Undergraduate and graduate degree programs
  • Vocational/technical training
  • On-the-job/apprenticeship
  • Licensing and certification reimbursement
  • National testing reimbursement
  • Entrepreneurship training
  • Flight training
  • Correspondence training
  • Work-study programs
  • Tuition assistance
  • Tutorial assistance

Active duty service members can additionally receive tiered amounts of benefit payments. Those who have served a minimum of 36 months after Sept. 10, 2001 are eligible for 100 percent tuition coverage or up to $21,970.46 per year at a private or foreign school. In addition, the Yellow Ribbon Program is available to service members to make up any difference in cost.

Members must have served at least 30 days of continuous active duty and be discharged due to a service connected disability or served an aggregate of 90 days of active duty and received honorable discharge to be eligible for the GI Bill. Service members who meet the criteria for this benefit have 15 years to use the aid. Reservists and Guard member are also eligible for the GI Bill and its recent amendments.

Benefits are also transferable to family members, including a spouse or child. If the service member has died in the line of duty on or after Sept. 10, 2001, his or her children may be eligible for additional benefits under the Marine Gunnery John David Fry Scholarship Program.

For more information and tips to avoid scams and other consumer related issues, contact the Arkansas Attorney General’s office at (800) 482-8982 or consumer@arkansasag.govor visit ArkansasAG.gov or facebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.

 

July 11, 2018

ATTORNEY GENERAL ALERT: SCRA Protects Military Service Members


LITTLE ROCK – Even some well-meaning Arkansans may not be aware of the protections granted to our brave military servicemen and women under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) of 2003. Federal laws protect active-duty servicemen and women and their families from potentially harmful civil legal matters. These protections cover insurance, mortgage payments, interest rates, leases, contractual arrangements and civil judicial proceedings.

“Our military men and women put their lives on the line to protect our freedoms,” said Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “Due to their unique needs and service obligations, Congress has implemented safeguards to ensure they have fewer worries at home while they are deployed. But it is important for all Americans to be aware of these protections.”

Attorney General Rutledge released the following tips as part of Military Consumer Month to help service members who need to take advantage of the many protections provided under the SCRA:

  • Inform the mortgage company that you are seeking protection under SCRA.
  • Provide the lender with written notice of military service.
  • Send the lender a copy of the orders calling the service member to active duty.
  • Research time constraints that could impact eligibility for some protections.
  • Consult the nearest Armed Forces Legal Assistance Office with questions regarding qualifications for SCRA.

The SCRA limits mortgage interest to 6 percent during military service and up to one year after service ends. Unless a court intervenes, it prevents a mortgage creditor from selling, foreclosing or seizing an active-duty service member’s mortgaged property during service and up to one year after military service terminates. The SCRA also provides protection requiring a judge to stay mortgage proceedings if a service member shows that military service has affected his or her ability to comply with mortgage obligations. Many service members would benefit from mortgage relief measures, and SCRA underscores this by prohibiting a mortgage servicer from requiring a service member to be delinquent on payments in order to qualify for loss mitigation relief if he or she would otherwise qualify.

Meanwhile, the 2012 National Mortgage Settlement placed requirements on five major mortgage servicers: Ally, Bank of America, Citi, J.P. Morgan Chase and Wells Fargo. In addition to benefitting all homeowners, these mortgage servicers must notify service members who are 45 days delinquent on mortgage payments that they are entitled to SCRA protections and are eligible for financial counseling from Military OneSource and Armed Forces Legal Assistance. Arkansas was one of 49 states that settled with the mortgages servicers on allegations of illegal actions in servicing loans.

In 2015, Rutledge launched the first-ever Military and Veterans Initiative at the Attorney General’s office to assist active duty military service members, reservists, veterans and their families with consumer related issues and many other collaborative efforts.

For more information and tips on how to avoid a scam, call the Arkansas Attorney General’s Office at (800) 482-8982 or visit ArkansasAG.gov orfacebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.