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Attorney General Alerts

ATTORNEY GENERAL ALERT: The IRS Scam Picks Up Speed Again

ATTORNEY GENERAL ALERT: The IRS Scam Picks Up Speed Again

Wed, Aug 29, 2018

LITTLE ROCK – Scammers are dusting off the IRS scam and intimidating Arkansans once again by trying to convince innocent consumers that they owe back taxes that must be paid immediately. Consumers have recently been contacting the Attorney General’s office reporting that the scammers are spoofing phone numbers and posing as the IRS.

“Scammers continually use new strategies to frighten Arkansans,” said Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “There are various versions of this scam. Consumers should know that the IRS may send multiple letters, but will never make threatening phone calls.”

The IRS continues to remind consumers that these scam calls are recognizable and that the agency will not do the following:

  • Call demanding immediate payment. The IRS will not call if taxes are owed without first sending a bill in the mail.
  • Demand that taxes are paid without providing the individual the opportunity to question or appeal the amount owed.
  • Require a specific form of tax payment. For example, the IRS will not demand payment by prepaid debit card.
  • Ask consumers for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.
  • Threaten to bring in police or other agencies to make an arrest for not paying taxes.

The IRS encourages Arkansans to not to give out personal information during any unsolicited phone call from the IRS and to hang up immediately, contact the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at (800) 366-4484 to report the call and file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. The agency also requests that any scam emails be forwarded to phishing@irs.gov.

The IRS encourages Arkansans with any questions about owed taxes to contact their office directly at (800) 829-1040.

For more information about other common scams and consumer-related issues, please call the Arkansas Attorney General’s office at (800) 482-8982 or visit ArkansasAG.gov or facebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.

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AG ALERT: Student Loan Forgiveness Scams

ATTORNEY GENERAL ALERT: Student Loan Forgiveness Scams

Wed, Aug 22, 2018

LITTLE ROCK – Many college students take out loans to help pay for higher education, but scammers prey on those in debt with student loan forgiveness “programs.” Scammers will pose as government agencies offering to help with complicated federal student loan debt or claim to be independent organizations that are aware of new changes in repayment programs. But offers that do not come from an assigned federal loan servicer are a scam.

“Student loan debt can be intimidating,” said Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “Con artists often make unrealistic promises, such as drastically reducing or doing away with monthly payments altogether. While this may seem attractive at first, it can be detrimental in the long run, accumulating interest and potentially sliding into default. Some of these scammers will even charge for their assistance.”

Attorney General Rutledge released the following red flags of a student loan forgiveness scam:

  • Borrowers are instructed to stop paying on the loans
  • Borrowers are offered a promise of guaranteed reduced payments and/or loan forgiveness
  • The scammer requests Federal Student Aid username or passwords (FSA ID)
  • Borrowers are instructed to ignore letters or emails from a federal loan servicer
  • The scammer stressed the difficulty for the average person to navigate the Federal Student Aid system

If Arkansans believe they have been a victim of one of these companies, they should contact the federal loan service and update account information by changing all passwords and cancel any automatic withdrawal payments.

Financial aid basics and student loan repayment questions can be answered at StudentLoans.gov. The National Student Loan Data System is the Department of Education’s central database and has information for the specific federal loan servicer assigned to collect student loan payments.

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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AG ALERT: Google Tracking Locations

ATTORNEY GENERAL ALERT: Google Tracking Locations

Wed, Aug 15, 2018

LITTLE ROCK – Simply turning off the Location History for Google accounts does not stop the tech company from tracking a user’s location. According to an investigation published this week by the Associated Press, Google can track time-stamped location data from devices when the maps feature, browser or even the weather app is opened. But there is a way to stop the company from tracking locations.
“Google is a popular web browser and email provider across the country,” said Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “While we often expect privacy from these companies, in reality we must take extra steps to turn off location functions to prevent the company from peering into our daily schedules.”
Attorney General Rutledge released the following information about Google’s location tracking:

  • Location tracking is necessary to use some phone apps such as Google Maps.
  • Location tracking can be helpful when searching for information like the weather, shopping, restaurants and lodging.
  • For most apps, location setting options such as “always,” “while using the app” or “never” are available. An explanation of these terms can be found in the app settings.
  • Changes need to be made to the Google account to turn off location tracking.
  • To turn off location tracking, Google users can open the account, access account information from the drop down menu at the top right corner. iPhone users may click on Personal Info & Privacy, go to My Activity, open Activity Controls and turn off the toggle at Web & App Activity. (Android users can find this under Data & Personalization.)

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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AG ALERT: Don’t Get Schooled by Credit Card Debt

AG ALERT: Don’t Get Schooled by Credit Card Debt

Wed, Aug 8, 2018

LITTLE ROCK – Many young adults entering college or the workforce feel the pressure of looming bills and turn to credit cards to cover the initial costs but end up paying exorbitant rates long-term. Understanding that credit cards are not free and will only alleviate temporary financial burdens is an important concept for newly independent students. Accumulating credit card debt is avoidable; unfortunately, new users often fall victim to debt that hurts their ability to invest in personal pursuits like obtaining home loans and other financing in later years.

“Credit cards can be helpful but new users may not be fully aware of the costly terms and conditions,” says Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “Forgetting to make a payment or exceeding a card’s limit can be devastating to a consumer’s credit score, having a detrimental impact on long-term plans to buy a house or car.”

As preventative strategies to young adults interested in applying for a credit card, Rutledge offers 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.
  • Pay the whole balance owed if possible. 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 protect college students from coercive credit card companies and debt, the Arkansas General Assembly enacted legislation in 1999 that restricts the practice of marketing credit cards on college campuses.

College students are further protected by the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act, which restricts the marketing of credit cards on campuses nationwide. The advertisement of credit card within 1,000 feet of a college campus or university event is prohibited. In addition, consumers under the age of 21 are required to include a parent’s signature, further binding the parent or guardian to repay debt incurred by the account. Credit card companies are also forbidden from using gifts as a form of persuasion to bribe younger consumers into applying for a card.

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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AG ALERT: Preparation can Lower the Cost of Expensive Back-to-School Shopping

ATTORNEY GENERAL ALERT: Preparation can Lower the Cost of Expensive Back-to-School Shopping

Wed, Aug 1, 2018

LITTLE ROCK – Parents across Arkansas have been gearing up and saving money for back-to-school shopping, but supplies and clothes can be expensive, especially if parents do not take the time to price shop. From school supplies, to new gadgets and clothes, money quickly adds up.

“Back-to-school shopping can be stressful and financially straining for Arkansans,” said Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “But taking the time to compare prices, taking advantage of the best deals and only buying the necessities can save a lot of money.”

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 recognize 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 fraudulently 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. 4 and 5.

According to the National Retail Federation, families spent nearly $84 billion in back-to-school and back-to-college spending last year. Meanwhile, they estimate $685 in spending per child in grades K-12.

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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AG ALERT: Fake Military Charities Steal from Arkansans

ATTORNEY GENERAL ALERT: Fake Military Charities Steal from Arkansans

Wed, Jul 25, 2018

LITTLE ROCK – Scammers have been stealing money from Arkansans by posing as veteran charities and requesting charitable donations. These scams result in money paid to the pockets of scammers rather than the veterans charities that rely on them. Last week, Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge announced a new donor education campaign partnership with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and all 50 states. Operation Donate with Honor was launched to help consumers recognize charitable solicitation fraud and identify legitimate charities. In addition to the new campaign, the Arkansas Attorney General’s Office also offers advice to distinguish between fake and real charities.

“Con artists are savvy and may use names similar to already existing, trustworthy charities,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “If Arkansans know the correct questions to ask, a scam can usually be spotted. This new partnership is one more way to get the word out and ensure that Arkansans’ hard-earned money is actually helping veterans and our brave service men and women.”

Attorney General Rutledge released the following tips to help consumers ensure an organization’s legitimacy before giving money:

Rutledge and the FTC have released a video to highlight tips on how to research charities on giving wisely to veterans organizations.

In 2015, Rutledge launched the first-ever Military and Veterans Initiative at the Attorney General’s office to assist active duty military service members, reservists, veterans and their families with consumer-related issues and many other collaborative efforts.

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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