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Consumer Alerts

A Little Homework Can Save a Lot of Money

A Little Homework Can Save a Lot of Money

Wed, Jul 27, 2016

Teachers are beginning to decorate bulletin boards, school officials are mapping out daily school bus routes and parents are back-to-school shopping. From school supplies to new gadgets and clothes, parents can quickly go over budget.

Attorney General Leslie Rutledge issued today’s consumer alert to help parents get the most out of their money when purchasing school supplies.

“Back-to-school time is busy and can be financially stressful for parents,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “But it doesn’t have to be. A lot of money can be saved by doing your homework to find the best deals and only buying the necessities.”

Attorney General Rutledge released the following tips for parents who are back-to-school shopping.

  • Stick to the teacher-approved school supply list. Do not waste time and money on unlisted, impulse items that may never be used.
  • Research prices ahead of time. Use price comparison apps or websites to check best available prices in real time. Or shop end-of-summer sales. Also consider that many stores will price-match better deals from other retailers.
  • Check school supply deals at supermarkets and scope out the office supply items before going to the back-to-school section. More items could be in stock for a better price.
  • For larger, more expensive items like sports equipment, electronics or musical instruments, consider buying used or refurbished.
  • Ask about and understand a store’s return policy, and remember that sometimes a box cannot be returned once it is opened.
  • If shopping online, only purchase items on a secure website. Determine whether a website is secure by looking for a “lock” icon in a browser’s status bar and the letters “https” at the start of the website’s URL.
  • Consider paying for online purchases with a credit card. Consumers are allowed under federal law to dispute those charges and cardholders may have no liability if a card is stolen and used.

Some providers and companies offer student discounts on wireless service, cell phones, tablets and other electronics. Check with the provider to determine available discounts.

Arkansas’s sales tax holiday, which suspends state and local tax on certain school supplies and clothing, is Aug. 6 and 7.

According to the National Retail Federation, families spent nearly $70 billion in back-to-school and back-to-college spending last year. Meanwhile, they estimate $630 in spending per child in grades K-12.

For more information on keeping your finances secure 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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Scammers Going for the Gold This Summer

Scammers Going for the Gold This Summer

Wed, Jul 20, 2016

The 2016 Summer Olympics are coming up, and many Arkansans are eagerly waiting to watch the events from the comfort of their own homes. Even though many of us are not making the trip to Rio de Janeiro, con artists are still looking for ways to scam fans.

Scammers are using phishing attacks to solicit sensitive, personal information through email. At first it appears to be a legitimate advertisement, even using terms like “Rio” or “Rio2016,” but do not click on any links or open any attachments in unsolicited emails because they could contain malware, which can steal log in information, as well as expose you to identity theft.

Meanwhile, some scammers are sending fake emails saying the recipient has won the Olympics lottery, including a grand prize of a trip to Brazil to watch the summer games. But remember it is a scam if you never entered the contest. You cannot win a lottery you never entered.

Another scam that could reach those Olympic fans staying stateside is counterfeit merchandise. Scammers try to capitalize on Americans’ desire to show team spirit by advertising clothing or Olympic souvenirs. Make sure the website is a legitimate Olympic retailer, and use a credit card instead of a debit card to make any online purchases because it offers additional protections.

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge issued today’s consumer alert to help Arkansans to not fall victim to any of these scams.

“Many Arkansans plan to show their support for Team U.S.A. in the coming weeks,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “It is critical though that we all remember to be smart consumers and protect our personal and financial information.”

Attorney General Rutledge released the following tips to help spot fake websites and emails about this summer’s Olympic Games:

  • Check the page for bad grammar and spelling mistakes.
  • Do not move forward with the transaction if they only take payment through online currency or wire transfers.
  • Use caution if the offer sounds too good to be true.
  • Review the site’s privacy policy before submitting any personal or financial information.
  • Read the comments and reviews section and take note of negative feedback.

For more information on steps to take if your identity has been stolen 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 have Credit Protections

Military Families have Credit Protections

Wed, Jul 13, 2016

The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) offers a number of protections for active duty members of the military and their families. The SCRA provides protections from evictions, postponement of civil court matters until the service member returns from active duty and also caps interest rates at 6 percent, but the SCRA also ensures that military servicemen and women who seek protections through the SCRA are not discriminated against by lenders.

The SCRA prevents lenders from denying or revoking credit, changing the terms of an existing loan or refusing to grant credit to a service member because they previously sought SCRA protections. Claiming those SCRA rights is not to be used as the basis for a lender to generate a negative credit report or conclude that the service member is unable to pay a debt.

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge issued today’s consumer alert during Military Consumer Protection Month to educate active duty members of the military about the SCRA and the many protections it offers.

“The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act protections are in place to ease legal and financial burdens on military service members and their families,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “The demands of active duty can take a toll on families. The brave men and women who put their lives on the line need to know the laws that are in place to protect them.”

Attorney General Rutledge released the following tips for active duty military service members who believe their rights under the SCRA have been violated:

  • First, seek the counsel of a military legal assistance attorney to determine if your SCRA rights have been violated.
  • If the military attorney determines that a violation of the SCRA has occurred, the service member must retain a private civilian attorney with SCRA expertise in order to pursue a lawsuit. The Arkansas Bar Association provides a database of Arkansas attorneys.
  • Possible remedies to these types of issues include the recovery of monetary damages, legal costs and attorney fees.

Rutledge is dedicated to serving and protecting military members through the first-ever Military and Veterans Initiative at the Attorney General’s office. This initiative assists active duty military, reservists, veterans and their families with consumer related issues, veterans courts, Hiring Heroes program and other collaborative efforts.

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.govor visit ArkansasAG.gov or facebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.

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Spot Skimmers and Keep Your Cash

Spot Skimmers and Keep Your Cash

Thu, Jul 7, 2016

Scammers are adapting as technology continues to advance. While card reader fraud has been around for a number of years, these con artists are finding new ways to steal your money, like placing a skimmer on a credit and debit card reader.

A skimmer is a malicious card reader that goes over the existing card reader and is designed to steal data off the card’s magnetic stripe. These readers are small and can be installed anywhere there is a card reader, including ATMs and at the gas pump. The thief then clones the cards for his or her own use.

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge issued today’s consumer alert to educate Arkansans about this scam and provide tips to avoid falling victim to skimming.

“This type of card reader scam has evolved over the last decade, with CBS News reporting skimming instances rising 546 percent between 2014 and 2015,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “While that number is staggering, there are some clues Arkansans can look for that could be signs of a tampered card reader. Hard-working Arkansans should remain diligent in protecting their personal and financial information.”

Attorney General Rutledge released the following tips to catch a skimmer:

  • Check for obvious signs of tampering. If something looks different, such as a different color or material or the graphics are not aligned correctly, do not use that card reader.
  • Wiggle everything, including the card reader. ATMs are solidly constructed and usually will not have any 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 later so the movement will not affect the transaction but could foil a skimmer.
  • Cover your hand while entering the PIN number. Criminals need your PIN number in order to use the card and will often set up small, hidden cameras to watch you enter the 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 on the sidewalk.
  • Monitor both your bank account and credit card transactions and report any theft to your bank or card issuer as soon as possible. Consider setting up text or email alerts that go straight to your phone so that banks and credit card companies can reach you as soon as they notice any suspicious activity.
  • Use a credit card whenever possible because credit card transactions can be halted and reversed at any time. Meanwhile, an unauthorized debit transaction needs to be caught within 48 hours to keep your liability for the transfer low.

Because most of the current chip-enabled cards currently being used in the U.S. are also equipped with the magnetic stripe, they will not be protected from this type of scam.

For more information on steps to take if your identity has been stolen 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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Celebrate Independence Day Safely

Celebrate Independence Day Safely

Wed, Jun 29, 2016

On July 4, 1776, the Declaration of Independence was adopted by the original 13 colonies, declaring independence from England and setting the groundwork for the creation of the United States of America. President John Adams wrote a letter to his wife, Abigail, saying “I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival.”

Many Arkansans have traditions that include family picnics and fireworks displays. Some attend one of the large displays across the State. But other Arkansans put on their own displays, including firecrackers, Roman candles and illuminating torches.

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge issued today’s consumer alert to remind Arkansans to keep safety in mind when using fireworks this Independence Day.

“Fireworks are a traditional part of Fourth of July celebrations around Arkansas,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “But those who decide to put on their own displays need to use caution because fireworks can be extremely dangerous when not used properly. Improper use or malfunctioning fireworks can lead to fires, particularly with recent dry conditions, along with serious injuries and even death.”

Attorney General Rutledge released the following tips for consumers who are planning their own holiday fireworks show:

  • Only buy fireworks from a licensed store, tent or stand.
  • Use fireworks outdoors in a clear area.
  • Read and follow all warnings and instructions.
  • Supervise children at all times and make sure adults light every firework, including sparklers, which can reach 2,000 degrees.
  • Make sure other people are out of range before lighting fireworks.
  • Never relight a malfunctioning firework. Soak the duds in water and throw them away.
  • Do not shoot fireworks from metal or glass containers.
  • Keep a water hose or bucket of water nearby in case of a fire.

Arkansas’s “Fireworks Act” restricts the types of fireworks that can be sold in the State and the amount of explosive material that each firework may contain.

Firework vendors are required to have a State license. They may not sell fireworks to anyone under the age of 12 or to anyone who appears to be intoxicated. Municipal ordinances may also restrict or regulate fireworks sales and use.

State law only allows exploding fireworks to be sold each year from June 20 to July 10 and from Dec. 10 to Jan. 5. Non-exploding items, such as sparklers and snakes, may be sold throughout the year.

For more information about 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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Research Pet Boarding Facilities

Research Pet Boarding Facilities

Wed, Jun 22, 2016

Oftentimes, four-legged family members are left at home while the rest of us take a summer getaway. Some Arkansans will have friends stop by to feed, water and walk or play with these beloved animals on a regular basis, but others will opt to locally kennel or board the family pet.

While kenneling or boarding a pet can be stressful, Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge issued today’s consumer alert to help Arkansans learn what to look for in a facility to ensure the animal’s safety.

“There are a lot of different things to consider when dropping off an animal at a kennel for a few days,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “Is the facility clean, do they have enough staff members to handle the number of animals, what is their medical care plan if necessary? These are all questions to ask when deciding the best kennel to keep your furry family member while away.”

Attorney General Rutledge released the following precautions for pet owners to take when considering boarding their pet.

  • Ask family and friends for recommendations of facilities they have used when boarding their pets. And research online to see if any complaints have been filed against the company.
  • Check out the facility on the web and on social media. Read comments by former or current customers.
  • Visit the facility. Check for cleanliness and the overall safety of the kennel and cages.
  • Ask about interactions between the animals. Some kennels let animals play together while others keep them separate at all times. Make sure the facility requires proof of immunizations and ask if they have any flea and tick control policies.
  • Inquire about the background and experience of the staff and ask the facility for references. Take note of how they interact with other boarded pets on your visit.
  • Thoroughly read the boarding agreement. Verify it includes the feeding and exercise schedule, as well as pick-up and drop-off hours. Some facilities offer bathing, nail trimming and immunizations as additional services. Make sure these and any other additional fees, like medical emergencies or other care, are included in the agreement.
  • Have a backup plan like a trusted friend, family member or veterinarian in case of an emergency.

Rutledge also recommends to start checking out facilities ahead of time and consider boarding your pet for a night or two as a trial run before leaving him/her for an extended period of time.

Remember that pets need adequate play time and space, and animals should not only be segregated by size but also by play styles and energy levels.

For more information about traveling 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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