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Consumer Alerts

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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Television Package Upgrades

Television Package Upgrades

Wed, Aug 24, 2016

Many Arkansans are gearing up for football season and fall premieres and looking into options to get as many games and programming on television that they can. This leads some to consider upgrading television packages to make sure they can watch all of the big games and popular shows. Different providers offer different channel upgrades, and it is important to be educated on the options from your cable or satellite provider.

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge issued today’s consumer alert to encourage Arkansans to fully research available television packages before determining if an upgrade is right for them.

“Whether it is the Razorbacks, Red Wolves or your favorite NFL team, many of us are anxiously awaiting football season,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “But if you cannot make the trip to watch the game in person, watching it on television is the next best thing. It is important to do your research beforehand and educate yourself about the options available to get the services you want.”

Attorney General Rutledge released the following tips for consumers looking to upgrade their cable or satellite package.

  • Review all of the packages and add-ons available through your current provider. These options may include telephone and internet services or high-definition and digital video recorder upgrades to your television. Bundled deals may cost less overall, but make sure you utilize what you pay for.
  • Consider the type of programming you prefer to watch (sports, movies, children’s shows, etc.). Based upon your budget, chose a package that includes the programming you want.
  • Be realistic about what you will watch so that you do not end up overpaying for channels that you will not use. Keep in mind that receiving HD channels will cost more.
  • Be wary of promotional deals, as they always have an expiration date. Make sure to read the fine print to see when and how much the price will increase, as well as when your access to certain channels will expire.
  • Beware of offers of “free installation” or “free equipment.” Usually these offers require that you agree to a longer term contract. You may end up paying more than if you paid for the equipment up front.

Also research the best service providers in your area and be sure to understand equipment, billing and contract agreements.

For more information on types of television service 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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Air Bag Recalls Expanding

Air Bag Recalls Expanding

Wed, Aug 17, 2016

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) continues to issue recalls for Takata air bags. The air bags used by many popular manufacturers, including Acura, BMW, Cadillac, Chevrolet, Ford, Honda, Jeep, Infiniti, Lexus, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Subaru, Toyota, Volkswagen and more, were reportedly made with a propellant that can degrade over time causing the air bag to rupture and propel shards of metal into the vehicle. According to the NHTSA, the air bags have attributed to at least 10 deaths and more than 100 injuries in the United States.

The NHTSA is urging consumers to not drive certain 2001-2003 Honda vehicles and to immediately call the dealer to schedule a free repair. It is believed that the inflators in these vehicles are at a higher risk of rupturing during air bag deployment.

The recall was expanded earlier this summer to as many as 68 million inflators. The expansion includes all driver and passenger frontal Takata air bags that have ammonium nitrate-based propellant air bag inflators without a chemical drying agent. The age of the inflator, along with prolonged exposure to a hot and humid climate pose a much greater risk of rupturing. According to the NHTSA, nearly 9.4 million air bags have been repaired so far.

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge issued today’s consumer alert to encourage Arkansans to educate themselves about this recall and to take immediate action to avoid injury or even death.

“Arkansans should take all recalls seriously, especially the Takata air bag recall,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “This is one of the most serious and largest recalls in American history. Manufacturers are sending recall notices and replacing air bags free of charge to the vehicle owners as replacements are available. These notices should be considered urgent warnings and plans should be made to have the air bags replaced quickly.”

Attorney General Rutledge released the following tips to help Arkansans research recalls and determine if the air bag in their vehicle is on the recall list.

  • Visit SaferCar.gov to get the latest information on the Takata recall.
  • Search the NHTSA’s database or contact the vehicle manufacturer or car dealer for recalls by the Vehicle Identification Number, which is visible from the outside of the vehicle through the driver’s side windshield.
  • Sign up at SaferCar.gov to receive email notifications from the NHTSA to learn when manufacturers file new recalls.

The NHTSA has classified states into three zones in order to prioritize the air bag replacements. Arkansas is included in zone B, and the NHTSA anticipates issuing recalls in phases through December 2019. Earlier this summer, the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration reported 22,620 vehicles that are registered in Arkansas are impacted by this recall.

For more information on auto recalls, vehicle warranties and other consumer-related issues or to file a consumer complaint, contact the Attorney General's office at (800) 482-8982 or consumer@arkansasag.gov or visit ArkansasAG.gov or facebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.

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Military Families Make Your Vote Count

Military Families Make Your Vote Count

Wed, Aug 10, 2016

Active duty military service members and their families are ensured voting eligibility in their state of legal residence under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act. This means that any active duty Arkansan stationed outside the State is still eligible to vote in the upcoming general election, including all State and local races.

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge issued today’s consumer alert to ensure military families are aware of the deadlines and the necessary steps to make their vote count on Tuesday, Nov. 8.

“Just like all Americans, active duty military members should ensure they are registered to vote,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “But families who are stationed in another state or overseas need to plan ahead to ensure they are registered in plenty of time, request the appropriate absentee ballot and have it turned in to be processed in a timely manner.”

Attorney General Rutledge released the following dates to help Arkansans stay on track to make sure their vote counts in November:

  • Friday, Sept. 23 – The federal government requires states to provide voters requesting an absentee ballot prior to this date with an absentee ballot. States can issue absentee ballots after this date, and active duty Arkansans can request an online ballot up to Election Day.
  • Monday, Oct. 10 – Deadline to register to vote in the general election.
  • Tuesday, Nov. 8 –Absentee ballots for active duty military members and their families must be postmarked by Election Day.
  • Friday, Nov. 18 – Deadline for county clerks to receive an absentee ballot from active duty military members and their families.

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. 8.

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.

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 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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Use Credit Cards with Care

Use Credit Cards with Care

Wed, Aug 3, 2016

As summer winds down, college students are headed back to school, which means being faced with additional expenses. For many students, signing up for a credit card may seem like a good solution.

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge issued today’s consumer alert to provide young Arkansans with helpful tips when entering the credit market.

“Credit cards are a convenient way to purchase items, however, discretion must be used so that no long-term problems occur,” Attorney General Rutledge said. “Exceeding the card’s credit limit or late payments will negatively impact your credit score. A low credit score will increase interest rates and make applying for loans more difficult.”

For those students who are considering applying for a credit card, Rutledge offered 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.
  • Always pay the balance owed. 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 combat the high-pressure solicitations and students burdened by credit card debt, the Arkansas General Assembly enacted legislation in 1999 that restricts the practice of marketing credit cards on college campuses.

In 2009, Congress passed the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act, which restricts on-campus credit card marketing nationwide. Under this law, the marketing of credit cards within 1,000 feet of a college campus or related event is prohibited. Consumers under age 21 must have a written application that includes the signature of a parent, legal guardian or spouse that has means to repay debts incurred by the account.

Credit card marketers are also forbidden from using gifts such as T-shirts and magazine subscriptions to entice a young consumer into applying for a card.

For more information on other consumer-related issues or to file a consumer complaint, contact the Attorney General's office at (800) 482-8982 or consumer@arkansasag.gov or visit ArkansasAG.gov or facebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.

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