News/Events

Attorney General Alerts

Red Flags in Timeshare Resale

CONSUMER ALERT: Red Flags in Timeshare Resale

Wed, Jun 21, 2017

LITTLE ROCK – Some Arkansans have found themselves trapped in a bad timeshare deal, unable to get rid of the property and have contacted the Attorney General’s office seeking help. The idea of a guaranteed vacation location, upscale lodging accommodations and the ability to exchange shares for other properties could seem like the perfect vacation solution. But timeshare “owners” may be surprised by expensive annual maintenance fees, difficulty exchanging weeks or locations and finding the property value they assumed would remain steady or even increase has remained the same or decreased.

A timeshare is a type of property in which an owner buys the right to use it for a previously-designated period of time. Timeshares are usually condominium units in a popular destination and often have multiple “owners.”

“Timeshare ‘owners’ who have found themselves wanting to sell their stake in the property often run into scam artists who promise to sell their portion quickly,” said Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “But Arkansans must do research before working with any company offering to help resell the timeshare. Consumers must make sure they are dealing with a reputable seller.”

Attorney General Rutledge released the following tips for Arkansans looking to resell their timeshare:

  • Beware of timeshare resellers who contact you unsolicited with a promise to resell your timeshare.
  • If they say they have willing buyers, it is probably a lie.
  • Never pay a substantial advance fee for resale assistance. A reputable seller will charge a commission paid only upon sale, like a normal real estate transaction. An advance fee may be called a marketing fee, a listing fee, an internet advertising fee or other related fee.
  • Get an independent appraisal from a licensed appraiser before agreeing on any resale assistance contract.
  • Deal only with licensed agents.

The timeshare industry has become a popular platform for a number of operations to take advantage of “owners” desperate to sell. They claim to offer assistance in selling the timeshare and take away the burden of the continuing costs of ownership. These operations collect hundreds or thousands of dollars in so-called deed transfer or marketing fees but never complete the sale.

The timeshare industry was rapidly expanding in the 1970s and 1980s, which resulted in an overdeveloped market and flood of properties that now have depressed values. These circumstances make the resale of timeshares difficult. The industry fluctuates and is unpredictable.

Consumers who have concerns about their timeshares 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.

MORE
Online Predators Working Overtime During Summer Months

CONSUMER ALERT: Online Predators Working Overtime During Summer Months

Wed, Jun 14, 2017

LITTLE ROCK – Online predators target children during the summer months when school is out and children spend more time on the internet.

Parents and adults can protect children while they are accessing online resources and having fun on social media.

"Online predators look to take advantage of a child’s innocence by intimidating them or trying to put them into inappropriate situations,” said Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “And that is why parents and adults must be vigilant in knowing what children are doing and who exactly they are talking to online to make sure they are safe.”

Attorney General Rutledge released the following tips for parents to implement this summer while their children are home on summer vacation:

  • Make sure children keep passwords, pictures and personal information private and share only with their parents or guardian.
  • Remind children never to arrange a face-to-face meeting with someone they first met online.
  • Teach children not to post anything on the internet that they would not want others to see such as explicit photographs of themselves or others.
  • Help them be aware that people they meet online are not always who they say they are.
  • Let children know they should not say anything online that they would not say in public.
  • Tell them not to respond to messages from people they do not know and to messages that are inappropriate or make them feel uncomfortable.
  • Encourage children to tell an adult if they ever encounter a problem online.

The Attorney General’s office is hosting an internet safety webcast on August 2 and also 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 and regional cyber safety trainings are available this summer for educators across the state.

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.

MORE
Skimming Scams Targeting Arkansans

CONSUMER ALERT: Skimming Scams Targeting Arkansans

Wed, Jun 7, 2017

LITTLE ROCK – Little Rock and Stuttgart police have recently reported finding skimmers on ATM and gas station card readers, which allows criminals to clone the consumer’s credit card to purchase other items. Credit and debit card users should take extra steps to protect their account information as multiple reports of skimming have hit Arkansas so far this year.

“A skimmer is a device that goes over an existing card reader and steals data off the card’s magnetic strip,” said Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “The criminal who places the skimmer may also install a video camera or fake keypad to capture pin numbers as they are entered. But consumers can oftentimes spot a skimmer by taking time to closely inspect the card reader.”

Attorney General Rutledge released the following tips to avoid falling victim to skimming:

  • Check for obvious signs of tampering. If something looks different, such as a different color or material or the graphics are not alighted correctly, do not use that card reader and notify the owner or management.
  • Wiggle everything, including the card reader. ATMs are solidly constructed and usually will not have parts that loosen. Also wiggle the card as it is inserted. PC Magazine reports that the skimmer needs the card to go in straight to read the data correctly, but most ATMs take the card and return it so the movement will not affect the transaction but could foil a skimmer.
  • Cover your hand while entering the PIN number. Shielding the keypad with your free hand could protect your bank account.
  • Use ATMs in busy locations. Scammers need time to install the skimming equipment and are less likely to take that risk if there are people around. ATMs inside banks and grocery stores are usually safer than those outside.
  • Always review account statements for any suspicious activity. If you detect an unauthorized charge, notify your financial institution as soon as possible. Timely reporting of an unauthorized charge will mitigate your liability.

Unfortunately, the chip-enabled cards are not currently protected from this scam because most are also equipped with the magnetic stripe which holds that data these scammers are looking for.

Consumers who believe they have been victims of skimming should contact local law enforcement and card provider or bank to report the fraud.

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.

MORE
Scammers Prey on Flood Victims as They Rebuild

CONSUMER ALERT: Scammers Prey on Flood Victims as They Rebuild

Wed, May 31, 2017

LITTLE ROCK – Many families in Arkansas are still cleaning up from the historic floods that hit our state about a month ago. As flood waters recede, some of the damage is becoming more visible, and some are trying to use the floods to line their own pockets by selling water damaged items.

“Some retailers and sellers are transparent that items may have water damage, but others try to hide any damage from potential buyers,” said Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “Arkansans need to be cautious when purchasing electronics, furniture or equipment and look for potential damage themselves. Consumers should also understand that some flood damage may not be visible at first glance and mold or other problems could be inside the item.”

Attorney General Rutledge released the following tips for Arkansans to consider before making any large purchases of items that could have been involved in the recent flooding:

  • Consumers should always buy items from reputable sellers. In order to learn more about business reputations, consumers may check online reviews and consult with other known customers of such businesses.
  • Be careful if buying electronics or lawn equipment that is either advertised as flood-damaged or suspected of having been submerged in liquid. Such items may not only fail to function properly, but they may present a hazard to health and safety.
  • Ask questions and exercise due diligence. If the item is agricultural equipment or is subject to legal title requirements and can be searched, then do so.
  • Have a professional inspect or appraise the item for you. If it is a furniture item, be mindful that mold and other harmful substances may have come into contact with the item.
  • Ask the merchant about their return policy, and ask for a copy of the return policy. Confirm that you have the ability to return the item if needed.
  • Check with the Better Business Bureau and the Attorney General’s office to see if any related complaints have been filed against the business.

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.

MORE
Booking Travel Online Could Include Unwanted Baggage

CONSUMER ALERT: Booking Travel Online Could Include Unwanted Baggage

Wed, May 24, 2017

LITTLE ROCK – Booking vacations online can be very challenging because it can be difficult for consumers to verify what they are actually purchasing. Arkansans value their vacation time and want to make sure their hard-earned money is well spent. While most vacation booking websites are legitimate, there are a few unscrupulous sites that scams users out of money by accepting payment for a hotel or house rental that does not actually exist.

“It is easy for scammers to hide behind their computer screens and set up fake travel sites,” said Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “They can make these sites look legitimate by stealing images from actual travel sites, causing confusion for potential buyers. It is important for Arkansans to do their homework when booking, and remember that if an offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”

The Federal Trade Commission released the following tips to help consumers protect themselves from these fake sites:

  • Ask friends and family for recommendations of vacation spots, booking agents and travel sites.
  • Call to verify the accommodations for each part of your trip, including travel, hotel, rental car and excursions, even when booking through a travel agent. Write down the confirmation number and any information about the person you spoke with to confirm the reservations.
  • Consider purchasing cancellation insurance and get a copy of the company’s cancellation policy. The U.S. Travel Insurance Association has a list of licensed travel insurance companies.
  • Pay via credit card so that the charges can be disputed in an instance that you are not happy with the services. It is easier to dispute charges on a credit card than check or cash.
  • Ask about mandatory resort fees for amenities such as a swimming pool, fitness center or internet access. Consumers are required to pay the fees whether the amenities are used or not. Hotel often do not include these fees in the price of their rooms.

Travel scams can come in the form of fake sweepstakes and only require a “small” processing fee or a credit card number verification, or sometimes scammers will send a robocall or cold-call to consumers claiming they have been chosen for a vacation. Oftentimes scammers will use high-pressure tactics to convince consumers their scam is legitimate. Another sign of a scam is that the person on the other end of the phone has very little information about the vacation spot.

In February, Rutledge filed a consumer-protection lawsuit against The Resort Place and its owners, Jay Allen and Dora Ann Edmondson. The Resort Place offered services to vacation-property owners seeking to rent their properties and to vacation-rental customers seeking to book a property online. Although consumers paid The Resort Place, the reservation was never booked, or consumers had to pay for substitute accommodations.

Consumers who believe they have been victims of a travel scam 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.

MORE
Sweepstakes Scams Stealing Arkansans Cash

CONSUMER ALERT: Sweepstakes Scams Stealing Arkansans Cash

Wed, May 17, 2017

LITTLE ROCK – Scam artists are making unsolicited phone calls and sending unsolicited emails to convince Arkansans they have won a sweepstakes or lottery. But there is a catch – “winners” must first wire a processing fee or fill out a form to provide banking information to the con artist so the money can be deposited. This is a scam.

“Arkansans work hard for their money, and these criminals who do what they can to steal from us are appalling,” said Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “My office has had recent calls from Arkansans reporting they were told they had won $2 million – if only they would send $900. Consumers need to be cautious when receiving unsolicited phone calls or emails. Legitimate organizations will never require a processing fee or private banking information in exchange for a prize.”

Attorney General Rutledge released the following tips to help consumers spot one of these scams:

  • Consumers should not try to collect winnings from a sweepstakes they do not remember entering.
  • Never give out personal financial information.
  • Do not pay any money up front in an attempt to claim a prize.
  • Always remember, if it looks or seems too good to be true, it mostly likely is.

Scammers often use the name of legitimate businesses, like Publishers Clearinghouse, or a similar name to trick consumers into turning over their information.

No matter how the consumer is notified, there is a good chance the consumer will lose money instead of winning it. When money is wired to a foreign country, it is very difficult, if not impossible, to get it returned.

Consumers should ignore all unsolicited sweepstakes prices and immediately contact the Attorney General’s office to report the call or email.

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.

MORE
Contact Us
Sign Up For Consumer Alerts