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CONSUMER ALERT: Getting the Most Out of Gift Cards

CONSUMER ALERT: Getting the Most Out of Gift Cards

Wed, Dec 6, 2017

LITTLE ROCK – Consumers should always be aware of the hidden costs of gift cards, including inactivity fees and expiration dates that may render the card worthless. That information should be clearly disclosed on the card or its packaging and both givers and recipients need to read about each card to make sure they do not miss out on a portion of the money on the card.

“Many of us look for the perfect gift for family and friends, and sometimes that is a gift card,” said Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “Gift cards allow recipients to select their own gift or go out to eat without the burden of spending their own money. But recipients also have a responsibility to make sure they keep track of the card and get the most out of the gift.”

Attorney General Rutledge released the following tips for consumers who are planning to use a gift card:

  • Read the card’s terms and conditions. Check for an expiration date or fees.
  • If it appears that the value of your card has expired or that fees have been deducted, contact the card issuer. It may honor the card or reverse the fees.
  • Ask the person giving you the card for the card’s terms and conditions, the original purchase receipt or the card’s ID number. Keep this information in a safe place.
  • Use your card as soon as you can to avoid misplacing or forgetting about it.
  • If your card is lost or stolen, report it to the issuer immediately. Some will not replace lost or stolen cards, but others will for a fee. Expect to show proof of purchase and the ID number on the card.

Meanwhile, when purchasing a gift card, buyers should use only trusted sources, consider the financial condition of the retailer or restaurant and keep the original receipt so the recipient can verify the card’s purchase if it is lost or stolen.

If a recipient experiences problems with a gift card, contact the card issuer.

For more information about 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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CONSUMER ALERT: Hanging Decorations With Care

CONSUMER ALERT: Hanging Decorations With Care

Wed, Nov 29, 2017

LITTLE ROCK – Injuries and accidents are common while stringing lights, lighting candles and making homes look festive for the upcoming holiday season. Accidents interrupt the fun of the season if consideration is not used when decorating to avoid common mistakes that could cause injury or destruction.

“The holiday season is a time to focus on family,” said Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “Small mistakes can lead to large problems if we forget to make safety a priority. Most accidents are avoidable if we take extra time during preparations this year.”

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, 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-size sets of lights per extension cord, and ensure that each extension cord is rated for the intended use.
  • Always turn off or unplug when you go to bed or leave your home.
  • Never use electric lights on a metallic tree.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that candles were the source of 6,500 residential fires annually between 2010 and 2012. To avoid fires caused by candles, 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.

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 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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CONSUMER ALERT: Scammers Still Scaring Arkansans with IRS Con

CONSUMER ALERT: Scammers Still Scaring Arkansans with IRS Con

Wed, Nov 22, 2017

LITTLE ROCK – Scam artists are back to scaring Arkansans into believing the IRS is sending law enforcement to track them down. But this time the criminals are making more specific threats of suspending business or driver’s license, according to the IRS.

“The IRS is never going to call you demanding immediate payment on back taxes,” said Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “These scam artists often spoof the caller ID to make it look as though the IRS is calling, and even sound like an authentic IRS agent. But rather than making unsolicited phone calls, the IRS will mail multiple notices and never ask for personal or financial information.”

The IRS recently reminded consumers how they can easily recognize scammers who call. Consumers should know the IRS will not do the following:

  • Call demanding immediate payment. The IRS will not call if you owe taxes without first sending you 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 payment of taxes a certain way. For example, demanding a payment with a prepaid debit card.
  • Ask consumers for a credit or debit card numbers over the phone.
  • Threaten to bring in police or other agencies to arrest you for not paying.

The IRS strongly recommends Arkansans who receive these threatening calls not give out any personal information and 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.

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

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CONSUMER ALERT: Online Shopping Safety

CONSUMER ALERT: Online Shopping Safety

Wed, Nov 15, 2017

LITTLE ROCK – Identity thieves and other con artists do not take time off during the holidays. In fact, these criminals often ramp up their schemes to target Arkansans during holiday shopping. Many of us are making more purchases than normal, especially online, which means there are more credit and debit card transactions to track.

According to the National Retail Federation, 59 percent of consumers cited online shopping as the most popular shopping destination this year. They also expect holiday sales to increase nearly 4 percent over last year. That means consumers are expected to spend an average of $967.13 this year on gifts.

“Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals mean Arkansans will be shopping more,” said Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “Most of us save all year for the holiday season and we should remember to be cautious to ensure online shopping experiences are positive and safe.”

Attorney General Rutledge released the following tips to help keep consumers safe while shopping online:

  • Look for the “lock” icon on the browser’s status bar, and the phrase “https” in the URL to be sure information is secure 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 online merchant’s privacy policy before providing any personal financial information and determine how the information will be used or shared with others. 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” sections of a site.
  • Read and understand refund and shipping policies before you make your purchase.
  • Pay by credit card, which is the most secure payment method. Under federal law, charges can be disputed and consumer liability for theft is limited so long as consumers promptly notify the bank or credit card issuer. Additionally, many credit card issuers have “zero liability” policies under which the purchaser pays nothing if their credit card is stolen and used to make unauthorized purchases.
  • 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.
  • Be cautious when buying gifts from an online auction. Understand how the auction works and check out the seller’s reputation before bidding. Always ask about terms of delivery and return options. Never wire money for the purchase; use some other form of payment.
  • Keep records of online transactions and check for emails from merchants while doing business. Merchants may email important information about purchases.
  • Promptly and thoroughly review monthly credit card and bank statements for any errors or unauthorized purchases. Notify the credit or debit card issuer immediately if a card or checkbook is lost or stolen or if you suspect someone is using your accounts without your permission.

Also, research companies before finalizing the online purchase to ensure it is a credible merchant, and check the anticipated delivery date to make sure it will be delivered in time for the holidays.

For more information about 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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CONSUMER ALERT: Debt Relief Scams

CONSUMER ALERT: Debt Relief Scams

Wed, Nov 8, 2017

LITTLE ROCK – There is no “quick” and “easy” way to eliminate debt and those that say it can be done are scams. Debt is a crippling crisis for some people across the Natural State. Whether it is credit card debt, student loan debt or outstanding medical bills, Arkansans want to find a way out.

“It is possible to get out of debt and there are many programs which offer assistance,” said Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “But there is no easy answer. Getting out of debt takes a lot of hard work and sacrifice and any organization that promotes an easy process is likely a scam and Arkansans should avoid falling for their tricks, which are likely to only create additional financial woes.”

Attorney General Rutledge released the following list of red flags that could signal an unscrupulous entity:

· Charges any more than a nominal fee before it settles your debts.

· Pressures you to make “voluntary contributions.” That is just another name for fees.

· Touts a “new government program” to bail out personal credit card debt.

· Guarantees it can make your unsecured debt go away.

· Tells you to stop communicating with your creditors.

· Tells you it can stop all debt collection calls and lawsuits.

· Promises that your unsecured debts can be paid off for just pennies on the dollar.

· Refuses to send you free information about the services it provides unless you provide personal financial information, such as credit card numbers and balances.

· Tries to enroll you in a debt relief program without spending time reviewing your financial situation.

· Offers to enroll you in a debt relief program that does not include budgeting and money-management skills training.

· Demands that you make payments into a debt relief program before your creditors have accepted you into the program.

There are many legitimate programs and strategies for dealing with difficult financial circumstances. For more information about 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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Lemon Law Sweet Not Sour

CONSUMER ALERT: Lemon Law Sweet Not Sour

Wed, Nov 1, 2017

LITTLE ROCK -- Consumers may have an issue with their new car and take it to the dealership for repairs, but on occasion the problem persists. Any recurring problem, including defects that impair the use, value or safety of the vehicle could deem the vehicle a lemon. Consumers have the right to request a refund or replacement of the vehicle through the Lemon Law dispute resolution process.

Arkansas’s Lemon Law provides some security to the often unpredictable vehicle retail world. The vehicle’s Quality Assurance Period extends for two years from the date of original delivery or the first 24,000 miles of operation, whichever is longer.

“Arkansas’s Lemon Law guarantees protection for a potentially unreliable vehicle,” says Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “The process to file a claim requires several important steps and can be done by the consumer. My office has also updated ‘A Consumer’s Guide to the Arkansas Lemon Law’ which is available on our website.”

The Attorney General offered the following tips to consumers who notice issues after purchasing a new vehicle:

Arkansas’s Lemon Law does not cover mopeds, motorcycles, the living quarters of motor homes or most vehicles weighing more than 13,000 pounds. The law also does not cover vehicles that have been substantially altered after its initial sale from the dealer.

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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