News/Events

Attorney General Alerts

Fewer Tricks and More Treats This Halloween

Fewer Tricks and More Treats This Halloween

Wed, Oct 19, 2016

Halloween will be here before we know it. Many children and families are ready for the many activities that surround Halloween, including costume parties, haunted houses, hay rides and, of course, trick-or-treating. But parents should remember some key steps to take to keep their children safe during these fun activities.

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge issued today’s consumer alert to remind families of precautions to take to have a safe, fun trick-or-treating outing.

“Boys and girls are dreaming of dressing up as superheroes, first responders and Disney characters at the end of this month,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “Trick-or-treating should be a fun, care-free night for the youngest Arkansans, but, as adults, we need to remember there are things we can do to keep them safe.”

Attorney General Rutledge released the following tips to parents to avoid unexpected and unnecessary Halloween scares:

  • Select flame-resistant materials, masks, beards and wigs and try to avoid baggy sleeves and billowing skirts.
  • Choose costumes with light or bright colors whenever possible, or trim a darker costume with reflective tape. Consider also having children carry a flashlight to make sure they can see and are visible to drivers.
  • To avoid tripping and falling, choose costumes that fit well and do not drag on the ground. Make sure masks fit securely, have adequate ventilation and provide unobstructed views. Consider applying make-up to children’s faces instead of selecting loose-fitting masks.
  • Swords, knives and other accessories should be made of soft and flexible materials.
  • Take children to familiar neighborhoods and approach only homes with outside lighting.
  • Remind children of everyday safety rules, such as not getting into cars or talking to strangers, looking both ways before crossing streets and crossing with the light when they are trick-or-treating.
  • Adults should always accompany small children to caution them against running into streets and across lawns or driveways. Children should use sidewalks where available.
  • Encourage children to wait until they get home to eat candy so adults can inspect the goodies.
  • Parents should throw away any treats that are not commercially wrapped or appear to be tampered with.

Rutledge also reminds drivers to keep an eye out for children darting out from between parked cars or walking on roadways, curbs or streets. Motorists should also enter and exit driveways and alleys carefully and watch attentively for children in dark clothing at dusk.

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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Prescription Drug Take Backs Oct. 22 Across Arkansas

Prescription Drug Take Backs Oct. 22 Across Arkansas

Wed, Oct 12, 2016

The American Society of Addiction Medicine estimates 1.9 million Americans abuse prescription pain relievers annually, with nearly 19,000 lethal overdoses directly related to prescription pain relievers in 2014. The recent report also states that most adolescents who misuse prescription pain relievers get them from a friend or relative, oftentimes from a family medicine cabinet.

But concerns about opioid abuse go beyond painkillers because opioids are considered a gateway drug. Four in five new heroin users started abusing drugs by misusing prescription painkillers, according to the American Society of Addiction Medicine.

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge issued today’s consumer alert to encourage Arkansans to clean out their medicine cabinets and bring any unused or expired medications to one of the more than 100 Prescription Drug Take Back Day drop-off locations from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 22.

To find event sites and year-round drop-off locations near you, go to ARTakeBack.org. The Attorney General’s office also hosts take back events at mobile offices around the State.

“Prescription Drug Take Back Day allows Arkansans to drop off any unwanted medications, no questions asked, for proper disposal,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “It can be dangerous to keep unused prescription medications. These pills need to be properly disposed of to avoid them falling into the wrong hands and harming loved ones or the environment. I encourage all Arkansans to clean out their medicine cabinets and participate in the take back day.”

Attorney General Rutledge released the following list of medications that will be accepted at these events across the State.

  • Opioids, such as OxyContin
  • Stimulants, such as Adderall
  • Depressants, such as Ativan
  • Other prescription medications
  • Over-the-counter medicines
  • Vitamins
  • Pet medicines
  • Medicated ointments and lotions
  • Inhalers
  • Liquid medicines in glass or leak-proof containers (up to 12 ounces)
  • Medicine samples

Medications may be returned in the original bottle or in any other container for increased privacy.

Properly destroying these medications protects the environment. Medicines that are flushed or poured down the drain can end up polluting waters, which could contaminate food and water supplies. Many medicines are not removed by wastewater treatment plants or septic systems. Turning over these medications at Take Back Day events also reduces the risk of accidental poisonings by children, seniors or pets, as well as reduces the risk of drug abuse.

Rutledge is partnering with the Arkansas Department of Health, the Department of Human Services, Arkansas National Guard, Arkansas Rotary Clubs, Arkansas State Board of Pharmacy, Office of the State Drug Director, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and over 130 additional law enforcement and government agencies, community organizations and public health providers who comprise the Arkansas Prescription Drug Coalition planning the annual Prescription Drug Abuse Summit scheduled Thursday, Nov. 3 in Little Rock.

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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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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