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Consumer Alerts

Service Members Eligible for Settlement Dollars

Service Members Eligible for Settlement Dollars

Wed, Oct 5, 2016

Arkansas military service members and their families could be eligible for compensation as part of a $650,000 settlement with USA Discounters. Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge and 49 other attorneys general reached the settlement last week to resolve claims of deceptive practices used by the company against consumers, many of which were military families.

The company directed their marketing to military service members and veterans by setting up shop near military bases around the country and opening in-store credit cards and lines of credit, no matter the individual’s credit history. But USA Discounters was charging the members of the military an additional $5 fee and selling household goods, such as furniture, appliances, televisions, computers, smartphones and jewelry, at high interest rates.

Attorney General Rutledge issued today’s consumer alert to help Arkansans and military service members spot dishonest businesses.

“Many companies that advertise services to help members of the military and their families are legitimate,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “But some use trickery and dishonest marketing tactics to try to lure families into falling victim to their scams. Arkansans must stay diligent and educate themselves about red flags to avoid, including high interest rates and additional fees.”

Attorney General Rutledge released the following tips for all Arkansans to consider when opening a store credit card or line of credit.

  • Consider the interest rate and annual fees before agreeing to the line of credit. The more you spend on interest fees, the less you have to buy the things you want and need.
  • Do not run up a balance on a “teaser” rate card. An attractive interest rate offer may be temporary, and the permanent rate may be more than you can afford.
  • Pay off the balance every month and do not get hooked on paying the minimum payments.
  • Avoid late payment penalties by always paying on time.
  • Save receipts to check against monthly statements and report mistakes or discrepancies as soon as possible.

The company closed its doors last year and later declared bankruptcy. This means that for consumers with outstanding debts to USA Discounters that were entered into prior to June 2012, the contracts are extinguished and satisfied in full. And those with contracts entered into after June 2012 will receive a $100 credit on their debts.

Arkansas military service members, veterans and families can file consumer complaints with the Attorney General’s office on ArkansasAG.gov or by calling (800) 482-8982.

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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Scammers Pose as Superintendents

Scammers Pose as Superintendents

Wed, Sep 28, 2016

The school year is off to a fast start, but unfortunately some school personnel and others are reportedly receiving disturbing emails in their inboxes. The Attorney General’s office has received inquiries from teachers across the State that scammers are spoofing a superintendent’s email address and requesting the staff member wire money to an out-of-state bank.

These scam artists can be persuasive in convincing these employees to wire the money. They know staff are less likely to question directions from the superintendent, and coupled with a sense of urgency, scammers manipulate teachers or staff members into following their instructions.

This is a low-tech scam that can be run from anywhere in the world. All the scam artist needs is the superintendent’s name and email address, which can usually be found through websites or a social media account.

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge issued today’s consumer alert to Arkansas educators about this ploy to steal money from school districts, as well as employees.

“Our teachers focus on giving our children the best education possible,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “But criminals do not care who they hurt. It is important for all school employees to verify any unusual request, especially those requesting cash be wired.”

Attorney General Rutledge released the following tips to help school employees protect themselves from falling victim to this scam:

  • Double check the email address to confirm it matches the name displayed in the email “from” line.
  • Implement a verification system where staff can properly contact and check with the superintendent or senior staff members.
  • Verify the legitimacy of the request by calling the person using the contact information you have stored rather than the one given during the call or within the email.
  • Be vigilant about any urgent or confidential request not following the standard working procedure.
  • Trust your intuition. If there is any doubt, it is better to take the time to verify.

This scam has also been reported across the country with scammers even requesting employee personnel records, including Social Security numbers instead of cash.

The scam is often successful because there is nothing for traditional email security systems to block because it appears to be legitimate correspondence that is being sent directly to its target. Therefore, companies must educate employees and implement a verification system to avoid falling victim to this type of fraud.

For more information about identity theft 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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iTunes Gift Cards Cannot Pay Back Taxes

iTunes Gift Cards Cannot Pay Back Taxes

Wed, Sep 21, 2016

Criminals have found a new way to scam Arkansans out of their hard-earned money using some of their old cons. These scammers are still trying to convince people that they owe back taxes or that their favorite grandchild is in trouble in another country, but instead of requesting money be wired to them immediately, the criminals are asking for the money via Apple iTunes cards or gift cards.

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge issued today’s consumer alert to tell Arkansans that iTunes cards and other gift cards cannot be used as payments to government entities.

“Con artists are convincing and understand how to intimidate and push the buttons of good-hearted Arkansans,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “And now they are persuading consumers to load gift cards and turn over the card’s serial number, giving the scammer control of the value on the card. A gift card can never be used to pay taxes or fees.”

Attorney General Rutledge released the following tips from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) about avoiding falling victim to these convincing scams.

  • No government agency will ever request payment using an iTunes card or any gift card.
  • Ask yourself if this could be a scam before reacting and turning over any amount of money.
  • Never give the serial number of a loaded gift card or wire money based on any unsolicited phone call.
  • Verify the information given by the caller. Call the family member or government agency directly, and remember that scammers can spoof caller ID systems.

The FTC has reported that phony IRS agents are telling consumers they owe back taxes and would be arrested soon unless they buy a gift card and turn over the code. Con artists posing as government grant officers promise a big payout after the consumer purchases a gift card and reads them the code. While other scammers have convinced consumers that their grandchild is in jail and the only way to help is to buy a gift card and give them the code, according to the FTC.

The FTC has received reports of scammers requesting iTunes and Amazon gift cards or prepaid debit cards like MoneyPak, Reloadit or Vanilla. Once the code is turned over, the criminal has control of the card value. Once the value is redeemed, the consumer cannot get the money back.

Call the company from which the card was redeemable to, and the card can be disabled if the money has not yet been spent. Report this scam to FTC.gov.

Arkansans who receive a call from someone claiming to be from the IRS or asking for money are encouraged to call the IRS at (800) 829-1040 or file a complaint online at FTCComplaintAssist.gov by using the words “IRS Telephone Scam” in the notes.

For more information about 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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Protections for Military Members Who Lease Vehicles

Protections for Military Members Who Lease Vehicles

Wed, Sep 14, 2016

The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) provides legal rights for military service members who have been called to active duty, including those in the armed forces, National Guard and reserve forces. One specific provision of the SCRA allows military service members and their families to terminate automobile leases if they have received Permanent Change of Station or deployment orders under certain conditions.

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge issued today’s consumer alert to ensure Arkansas military families are aware of their rights when it comes to leasing a vehicle.

“Some families decide that leasing a vehicle is the best choice for them,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “But when new orders are issued, sometimes military families need to terminate those leases. The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act is in place to make sure that those men and women are able to continue with their military commitments without undue financial hardships, such as a vehicle lease.”

The SCRA allows auto leases to be terminated if one of the following requirements is met:

  • The lease was taken out prior to joining the military and service orders are for longer than 180 days.
  • The lease was taken out while on active duty but the service member received Permanent Change of Station orders to a location outside their current state or deployment orders to last at least 180 days.

To terminate the lease, written notification of the intent to break the lease, along with copies of the military orders, must be given to the creditor. The vehicle must then be surrendered within 15 days of giving notice, and the termination is effective upon vehicle surrender.

The SCRA explains that any prepaid lease payments beyond the surrender date must be refunded to the lessee within 30 days and the lessee cannot be charged for early termination fees. The creditor is also prohibited, under the SCRA, from making an adverse report about the lease termination to a consumer credit reporting agency and from retaining a lessee’s security deposit in anticipation of money owed.

Arkansas military service members, veterans and families should file consumer complaints with the Attorney General’s office on ArkansasAG.gov or by calling (800) 482-8982.

For more information about 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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Clear Old Cellphones Before Upgrading

Clear Old Cellphones Before Upgrading

Wed, Sep 7, 2016

New smartphones are released every few months, and many Arkansans upgrade their current phones with the newest products. But before you make the switch, it is important to clear all data and personal information from old phones before recycling, selling or returning the old phone to the provider.

Oftentimes, personal information can be left on cellphones, making it easy for identity thieves to find your personal and financial information.

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge issued today’s consumer alert to help Arkansans protect their personal information.

“Many of us want to take advantage of the latest technologies, including new smartphones when they are released,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “But if you recycle or sell an old phone without transferring or deleting your information, you could lose contact information, text messages, photos and videos. Leaving personal information on the phone could also leave you open to identity theft if the phone falls into the wrong hands.”

The Federal Trade Commission notes that consumers should take the following steps before recycling or selling an old phone:

  • Back up the data on a computer or on the cloud.
  • Log out of services like email and social media, then clear the app data from the phone.
  • Contact your service provider about switching service to a new device or terminating service if you are switching to a new provider.
  • Factory reset your phone to wipe it clean of personal data and restore it to factory settings. The owner’s manual will outline the process step-by-step.
  • Remove or delete the data on the phone’s SIM or SD card. Some data, including photos, can remain on the SIM or SD card even after a factory reset.

After the phone has been wiped clean and all of the personal information has been deleted, double check any places information could be hiding, including contacts, phone logs, voicemails, emails, text messages, downloads and other folders, search histories, photos and apps.

Many cellphones can be recycled with the manufacturer, service provider or a charity group. Most have programs that refurbish the phones or recycle their components.

For more information about identity theft 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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Do No Call List Doesn’t Stop Scammers

Do No Call List Doesn’t Stop Scammers

Wed, Aug 31, 2016

Many Arkansans receive unwanted calls from solicitors, sometimes multiple times a day. Signing up for free on the National Do Not Call Registry may reduce the number of unwanted sales calls received. But, remember, scammers ignore the Do Not Call Registry. This is why the IRS scam and other phone scams continue to top the list of complaints received by the office of Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge.

The Do Not Call Registry prohibits telemarketers from calling registered phone numbers if the purpose of the call is to sell goods or services. Companies are also required to search the Do Not Call Registry and update their call list at least once every 31 days. Scam artists and criminals do not follow any of these rules.

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge issued today’s consumer alert to educate Arkansans about why the Do Not Call Registry does not stop criminals, the IRS scam or other phone calls.

“The Do Not Call Registry will stop a legitimate individual, company or organization from calling you,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “But scam artists like those who claim to be agents with the IRS do not subscribe to the Do Not Call Registry. Consumers should always remember that no government entity, including the IRS, will ask for your personal financial information through an unsolicited phone call or email.”

Attorney General Rutledge reminds consumers of the following circumstances that allow companies and organizations to call consumers:

  • A company with an established business relationship may call you for up to 18 months after the last purchase, delivery or payment, unless the consumer asks the company not to call again.
  • Calls for which the consumer has given prior written, express permission.
  • Calls that are not commercial in nature or do not include unsolicited advertisements.
  • Calls by or on behalf of tax-exempt, nonprofit organizations.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reports seeing an increase in illegal sales calls since 2009. Internet phone systems allow scammers to call from anywhere in the world and “spoof” the caller ID by displaying fake information in an attempt to trick consumers. Use caution and do not give any personal information over the phone.

To add your phone number to the Do Not Call Registry or to check if you’re already on it, go to DoNotCall.gov or call (888) 382-1222. If you register online, you will receive a confirmation email and you must click the link in the email to complete the registration.

Arkansans who receive a call from someone claiming to be from the IRS or asking for money are encouraged to call the IRS at (800) 829-1040 or file a complaint online at FTCComplaintAssist.gov by using the words “IRS Telephone Scam” in the notes.

Other phone scams, identity theft, credit and debt problems can be reported at FTC.gov.

For more information about the Do Not Call Registry or 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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