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Consumer Alerts

AG Alert: Storm Victims Seek Repairs

AG Alert: Storm Victims Seek Repairs

Wed, Apr 18, 2018

LITTLE ROCK – Con artists are trying to take advantage of Arkansans who suffered property damage from the eleven tornados that touched down across our state last Friday, April 13. Damage is strung from the northwest corner to the southeast corner of the Natural State, leaving countless storm victims vulnerable to scams as they assess the damage and seek repairs this week.

“Home repair scams are common following severe weather and place additional strain on hard working Arkansans when repairs aren’t completed as promised,” said Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “These bad actors prey on victims of severe weather and take advantage of the unexpected and urgent nature of storm damage repairs. I urge all Arkansans to stay alert and use caution as they begin the clean-up process.”

Attorney General Rutledge released the following tips to ensure they hire a reputable contractor to complete the repairs:

  • 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. Consider contacting the Arkansas Contractor’s Licensing Board to verify that the contractor is licensed and has not had any complaints filed against it.
  • Avoid any home-repair solicitor who asks for an upfront payment or who will not provide you with a written contract.
  • Get at least three written estimates. A reputable contractor or professional will never try to pressure you to obtain your business.
  • Obtain and check at least three references from your contractor or professional.
  • Check with the Attorney General’s office or the Better Business Bureau to find out if the company has a complaint history.
  • Obtain a written and detailed contract that includes the grade, quality, name brand and quantity of any materials to be used. The name and address of the contractor must be on the contract.
  • Avoid paying for the entire job up front. One-third paid in advance, one-third paid halfway through the job and one-third paid upon completion is a better plan, helping assure that your project will be completed. Never make the final payment until you have had an opportunity to inspect the work.
  • Remember that all contracts resulting from a home-solicitation sale generally must include a buyer’s right to cancel within three business days after the contract is signed.
  • Make sure all warranties and guarantees are in writing.

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.

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ATTORNEY GENERAL ALERT: Crime Victims’ Rights Week April 8-14

ATTORNEY GENERAL ALERT: Crime Victims’ Rights Week April 8-14

Wed, Apr 11, 2018

LITTLE ROCK – April 8-14 is National Crime Victims’ Rights Week to raise awareness about financial compensation for victims who have suffered personal injury or death as the result of violent crime. Victims of crime may receive financial assistance to cover the medical and funeral expenses incurred by the victim or the victim’s family. Communities across the country, including here in Arkansas are hosting events this week to honor crime victims and recognize those who advocate on their behalf.

“I say thank you to the countless members of the law enforcement community and to the advocates in our State who provide a lifeline of hope and support to victims and their families,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “As a former prosecutor, I have seen firsthand how tragedies can impact families across Arkansas. I will continue to work hard to promote safer communities while also honoring the advocates who work each day with victims and survivors.”

This year’s theme for National Crime Victim’s Rights Week is “Expand the Circle Reach All Victims.”

Attorney General Rutledge is participating in an event this week to also proclaim this week as Arkansas Crime Victims’ Rights Week.

The Arkansas Crime Victims Reparations Program, administered by the Office of Attorney General Leslie Rutledge on behalf of the Crime Victims Reparations Board, provides financial compensation to victims and family members who have suffered personal injury or death as the result of violent crime.

Additionally, the Sexual Assault Reimbursement Program allows evidence to be collected after a sexual assault has been committed without the victim bearing the burden of the expense, and it pays for ambulance services and medical or legal examinations.

Victims may apply for compensation by submitting an application to the Attorney General’s office. Applications are available at ArkansasAG.gov or from Arkansas’s 28 elected prosecuting attorneys.

In 2016, Rutledge unveiled Laura’s Card and has since distributed over 75,000 cards across Arkansas. Laura’s Card is a resource to assist and empower victims of domestic violence and sexual assault to provide resources to people in abusive situations. The card can also be downloaded in English and Spanish at LaurasCard.ar.gov.

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AG ALERT: Springtime Scams Hit the Streets

ATTORNEY GENERAL ALERT: Springtime Scams Hit the Streets

Wed, Apr 4, 2018

LITTLE ROCK – Scammers are taking to the streets to con homeowners, convincing unknowing and trusting Arkansans to make costly repairs that are not needed. Worse, these criminals may demand payment up front for promised work that they have no intention of completing.

“Many hard working Arkansans look to make pricey updates and repairs to their homes during the spring season,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “But con artists are taking advantage of the warmer temperatures and looking to scam homeowners this time of year. Consumers should do their due diligence in hiring contractors and researching companies to ensure they are reputable.”

Attorney General Rutledge released the following tips homeowners should consider before hiring a contractor:

  • Think twice before hiring out-of-town or unknown contractors, especially those soliciting door-to-door.
  • Question contractors who use terms like “special introductory offer,” “limited-time offer” or those who offer discounts to use your house as a “model home.”
  • Do not fall for high-pressure tactics from contractors who want to discuss the price of the job later.
  • Beware of those demanding payment in full before work is finished.

Arkansans should also insist on a written contract or agreement that includes the name, address and telephone number of the contractor and consider a payment plan that pays for a third of the work up front, a third to be paid while work is being done and the final third upon completion.

Consumers should also know that the Arkansas Home Solicitation Sales Act allows consumers to cancel any home-solicitation sale made within three days of purchase of the item or service.

Any contractor building, repairing or doing improvements to a home costing more than $2,000 is required to be licensed by the Arkansas Contractors Licensing Board. Contact the board at ACLB.Arkansas.gov or (501) 372-4661 to verify a contractor’s license, the date it was issued and whether any complaints have been filed against that contractor. Ask for recommendations from people you trust.

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.

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Hackers Target Social Media ‘Friends’

AG ALERT: Hackers Target Social Media ‘Friends’

Wed, Mar 28, 2018

LITTLE ROCK – Hackers are attempting to infiltrate social media accounts in order to target friends of account holders by posing as the person and pushing programs that allege to provide financial assistance. The hackers prey upon trusting relationships between friends and family by claiming that completion of a simple application will allow them to help with a variety of expenses, ranging from paying bills to starting a new business.

“In their latest criminal ploy, hackers try to exploit trusted relationships between friends and families to scam innocent Arkansans out of thousands of dollars,” said Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “While social media users should only connect with individuals they actually know, criminals will not hesitate to hack accounts and pose as trusted friends to push their scams. Arkansans must remain vigilant and avoid giving out any personal information online or over the phone – if it sounds too good to be true, it’s probably a scam.”

Attorney General Rutledge released the following tips to help Arkansans keep their personal information secure on social media:

  • Use a unique password for each social media site you use. If an unauthorized individual accesses your account, they can use it to send spam to other users, scam your friends and family or use the information they obtain to scam you.
  • Be sure to set privacy settings to the most secure setting available. Ensure that information is only shared with friends, not with the internet at large. Some social media sites, like Facebook, allow users to see how their profile looks to specific individuals and the public.
  • If you receive a friend or follow request from an individual who you think you are already connected with, double-check your friends or followers list. If you are already connected with that individual, the new request is probably a hacker. When in doubt, reach out directly to the individual to verify the request.
  • If your profile is publicly viewable, do not post information that would let someone know that your house was empty or that you are home alone. Posting that you are leaving town for a few days could be an invitation for someone to break into your home. Likewise, if you have children or roommates who use these sites, make sure they are aware that they should never indicate online that they are home alone.
  • Think carefully about what information you post online. An electronic record of what you say will likely be online forever, which might come back to haunt you in the future. Follow the “Front Page Rule.” Do not post anything online that you would not be comfortable seeing on the front page of your newspaper. Remember that employers, universities and even attorneys often check other social media sites for information that you have posted online.

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.

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Attorney General Alert: Predators Exploiting App Popular with Children

Attorney General Alert: Predators Exploiting App Popular with Children

Wed, Mar 21, 2018

LITTLE ROCK – A seemingly innocent mobile phone application is now being used by child predators to exploit children. Recent news reports explain a dark side of the lip syncing app, Musical.ly, where predatory users manipulate keywords and hashtags to create secret video groupings of app users, often children, engaging in inappropriate behavior at the encouragement of other users.

“As adults, it is our job to protect our children,” said Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “Aunts, uncles, moms, dads, grandparents and family friends should all educate themselves about the latest apps the children in their lives are using. We must also make every effort to talk with children about the dangers of posting personal information online and the ways that information can be spread across the world – sometimes into the hands of people who do not have good intentions.”

Attorney General Rutledge released the following tips for children and families to remember when posting online and using apps.

  • Do not respond to messages that are inappropriate. Encourage children to tell an adult if they ever encounter anything that makes them feel uncomfortable.
  • Parents and guardians should consider using available parental controls offered at no cost by most providers and/or downloading a monitoring service app that allows them to view the child’s smartphone activity.
  • Children should never arrange a face-to-face meeting with someone they met online as they may not be who they say they are.
  • Follow the “Front Page Rule,” which reminds social media users not to put anything on a social media site they would not want to see on the front page of a newspaper.
  • Assume that status updates, photos and videos posted on social networks are permanent. Just because a profile is deleted or information is removed, older versions can continue to exist on other sites.
  • Make a unique password for every social media site. Consider making the passwords stronger by adding numbers or special characters. Having strong, unique passwords for each site helps prevent hackers from taking over social media accounts to send spam, scam friends or use information against the owner of the account.

Musical.ly is a popular app that boasts use by millions of people around the world every day. Users can create 15 to 60 second videos, adding music and filters to post on the site and for others to comment or “like.”

In 2016, Rutledge teamed up with Common Sense Media and AT&T to adopt the Digital You training program, which offers tools, tips, apps and guidance about staying safe online for people of all levels of online experience. Digital You training is available to parents and teachers across the State to teach them the latest internet safety tips, and encourage the implementation of lessons about staying safe online.

Concerned parents are encouraged to report instances of online exploitation of children, including unsolicited obscene materials sent to a child and misleading words on the internet, to the CyberTipline at http://www.missingkids.org/gethelpnow/cybertipline.

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.

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Shining a Light on FOIA During Sunshine Week

AG Alert: Shining a Light on FOIA During Sunshine Week

Wed, Mar 14, 2018

LITTLE ROCK – The Arkansas Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) helps ensure government transparency and allows the public to hold government officials accountable for their actions. In conjunction with National Sunshine Week, March 11-17, Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge highlights the FOIA to educate Arkansans about their rights when it comes to government accountability.

“Arkansans can be assured that government officials are held to a high standard of transparency at every level, including state and local leaders,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “I am committed to ensuring our Freedom of Information Act is used consistently and in accordance with the law – transparency is key in holding government accountable to the people it serves.”

Arkansas’s FOIA was enacted by the General Assembly and signed into law by Governor Winthrop Rockefeller in 1967. It is considered one of the strongest and most comprehensive open-records and open-meetings laws in the United States.

Attorney General Rutledge released the following information regarding Arkansas’s FOIA:

  • The law gives Arkansas citizens broad access to public records and public meetings, with limited exceptions.
  • A public record is defined as any writing, sound recording, video or electronic or computer-based information that is required by law to be kept or is otherwise kept that reflects the performance or lack of performance of official functions.
  • All records maintained by public employees within the scope of their employment are presumed to be public records, although several exemptions may shield a record (or certain information in a record) from disclosure.
  • Government entities generally have up to three working days to provide a record requested under the FOIA.
  • Custodians of records may only charge for the “actual costs” of reproducing public records, plus mailing expenses. Employee time spent complying with a FOIA request is not a cost that can be charged.
  • When a governing body meets to conduct the people’s business, the meeting is a public meeting and is subject to the open-meetings provisions of the FOIA.
  • Notice of public meetings must be provided to anyone who has asked to be notified, and two-hour notice of special or emergency meetings must be provided to members of the news media who have requested notice of such meetings.
  • Governing bodies may only enter into closed meetings, also known as “executive sessions,” for the limited purposes of considering employment, appointment, promotion, demotion, disciplining or resignation of an individual officer or employee. But if any action is to be taken after the executive session, the governing body must reconvene in public and take a formal vote on the matter. Any governing-body action decided upon in an executive session without a public vote has no legal effect.

The Attorney General’s office partners with the Arkansas Press Association and other organizations to produce and distribute the “Arkansas Freedom of Information Handbook.” The Handbook’s 18th edition was published in October 2017. Free copies of the handbook are available at ArkansasAG.gov, or can be ordered by completing the short online form or contacting the Attorney General’s office at community@arkansasag.gov or 501-682-2007.

The Attorney General’s office recently presented an online webcast about the Arkansas FOIA.

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.

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