Attorney General Alerts
Student Loans have Potential for Long-Term Financial IssuesThu, Aug 15, 2019
LITTLE ROCK – Starting school at a new college or university can be intimidating, especially when factoring in the immense expense and the potential need to take out student loans. There are some key items that every student should know before agreeing to a loan that often takes decades to repay.
“A student loan should be a short-time obligation to give students an opportunity to be successful,” said Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “Unfortunately, these loans are too often carried over for decades and hold our best and brightest back from making investments or taking risks as entrepreneurs.”
Attorney General Rutledge has provided the following tips for students considering taking out a student loan:
- Make sure you understand your loan. Before taking out a loan, make sure you understand the repayment terms and other obligations of the loan, interest rates and how they will be applied to the loan, and where to find your balance and payment schedule after you graduate. For federal loans, visit the National Student Loan Data System (nslds.ed.gov).
- Take advantage of the grace period. Oftentimes, there is a grace period after you graduate or stop attending a college or university. It is important to know how long the grace period is and whether interest will be charged during the grace period. Grace periods allow you to get your “feet on the ground” while making a plan to repay the loan.
- Know your re-payment options. Every loan is different and some offer the chance to change payment options based on your income rather than a set monthly amount. In some cases, if you are going through a financial hardship, there is the ability to temporarily defer payments.
- Be wary of loan consolidation and refinance offers. Many companies offer loan refinance options, but may not provide the promised service or might provide services that consumers can access for no cost. Consumers should learn all details about any loan refinance offer before enrolling in one.
- Check your credit report to see all of your education debts, including federal and private student loans.
For more information, the Arkansas Student Loan Authority can be contacted here or at 800-443-6030 or call the Arkansas Attorney General’s Office at (800) 482-8982 or visit ArkansasAG.gov or facebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.
Phone Scams Stating Your Social Security Number Has Been CancelledWed, Jul 31, 2019
Says, ‘The Social Security Administration will never contact you by phone’
A new variation of social security fraud has invaded the State of Arkansas, threatening the livelihood of Arkansans. This phone scam is typically initiated by someone saying they work for the Social Security Administration and claiming that your social security number has been cancelled due to fraud or misuse. In response, Arkansans will often verify their social security number over the phone. Once the number is shared, the scam artist steals the victim’s identity and uses it for their own monetary gain and to wreck the credit of the victim.
“From Lake Village to Salem to Lewisville, I have met with Arkansans who have received calls from someone claiming to be with the Social Security Administration stating their number has been cancelled,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “Let me be clear: this is a scam to steal your identity to open up fraudulent credit cards — the Social Security Administration will never contact you by phone about your number.”
Social security fraud continues to be a big problem for Arkansans. The Attorney General’s office however, is taking back the fight. In March of this year, Attorney General Rutledge announced that Joseph Sensabaugh, from Conway, was ordered to pay more than $300,000 in restitution for the part he played in a social security scam. Likewise, Carl Smith, of Fort Smith, was ordered in June to pay $72,000 in restitution after being convicted on charges of social security fraud.
Attorney General Rutledge endorsed the following Federal Trade Commission tips for Arkansans who may be dealing with a government imposter:
- Never give out or confirm sensitive information, such as a bank account, credit card or social security numbers unless the caller is trusted and his or her identity has been confirmed.
- Be cautious of callers using organizational or familiar-sounding names similar to existing agencies. Scammers use internet technology to spoof area codes, so although it may seem that a call is from Washington, D.C., it could instead originate from anywhere in the world—even from scammers.
- The Social Security Administration and other government agencies have warned about these scams. If contacted, hang up and call the government agency directly at a trusted number.
The Social Security Administration can be contacted at 1-800-772-1213 to verify the reason for the contact and the person’s identity prior to providing any information to the caller.
To report this scam to the Social Security Administration, contact its Fraud Hotline at 1-800-269-0271, or file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.
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.
Children Innocently Using Dangerous Smartphone AppsWed, Jul 24, 2019
Says, ‘allowing dangerous people into your home and their bedrooms’
When inexperienced children innocently use smartphone applications, they often do not realize predators are also lurking on sites looking to exploit their innocence. In today’s digital era, many teens and children feel pressured to post everything about themselves online. Due to this potential exposure, parents must play an active role in ensuring children stay safe on the internet.
“If you don’t know who your children are texting and gaming with on their phones, you could be allowing dangerous people into your home and their bedrooms,” said Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “I urge parents and grandparents to be informed and take an active role in their children’s online presence so together we can protect our kids. As long as bad people target the children of Arkansas, my office will be here to go after those people.”
Smartphone apps that allow messaging and video-chat between kids and anonymous or fake users pose the greatest threat. Apps like Yubo, known as “Tinder for teens,” allow users to chat and exchange information with people they may only know by a couple of unverified pictures. Recently, an Ohio man was arrested for the sexual exploitation of an 11-year old enabled by the app.
Chatous is another potentially harmful app commonly used that instantly connects users with random strangers all over the world for a one-on-one video-chat. The random nature of the app lends itself to the possibility of exploitation.
Attorney General Rutledge has issued the following tips to help protect Arkansas families:
- Parents should make a unique password, or know the password for their child’s social media sites. Consider making the passwords stronger by adding numbers or special characters. Having strong, unique passwords for each site helps prevent hackers from taking over social media accounts to send spam, scam friends or use information against the owner of the account.
- Follow the “Front Page Rule,” which reminds social media users not to put anything on a social media site they would not want to see on the front page of a newspaper.
- Assume that status updates, photos and videos posted on social networks are permanent. Even though a profile is deleted or information is removed on one site, older versions can continue to exist on other sites.
- If your child would like to engage in face-to-face meetings with contacts found online, use caution as the other party may not be trustworthy and may not be who they say they are.
- Do not respond to messages that are inappropriate. Encourage children to tell an adult if they ever encounter anything that makes them feel uncomfortable.
- Always be aware of clues that a child is experiencing harmful or abusive content online. These include frequent seclusion, mood changes and lack of transparency, among others.
- Parents and guardians should establish smartphone use policies for children and consider downloading a monitoring service app that allows them to view the child’s smartphone activity.
Recently the Department of Justice announced the arrest of 1,700 individuals in connection to online child exploitation. Parents should be aware of not just social media apps like Yubo or Chatous, but also apps like “calculator dot,” which allow children to hide pictures in secret files and to search the internet behind the facade of an innocent calculator.
For more information about ways to be safe online and other consumer-related issues, call the Arkansas Attorney General’s Office at (800) 482-8982 or visit ArkansasAG.gov or facebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.
Be Careful Posting Child PhotosWed, Jul 10, 2019
Child predators see this time of year as an excellent opportunity to exploit pictures of children found on the internet. As the weather changes and the air gets warm, many families head out to enjoy the amenities that make the Natural State special. As families enjoy our state it is important to remember that sharing pictures and videos of family this summer while being seemingly innocent, can have unintended and harmful side effects.
It is common for ill-intending users of social media to search through popular hashtags such as #bathtime and #poolside to find pictures of children in order to sell or trade with others. It is important that parents be wary of posting content featuring children during activities such as swimming, sleepovers, lake days and tanning, among others.
“No Arkansans intend to subject their children to exploitation through the things they post online, but often predators will prowl social media sites in search of pictures featuring children in swimsuits, athletic gear or wearing other formfitting and revealing clothes,” said Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “It is also a good idea to ask for consent from a child’s parent or guardian before including him/her in content with your child. Protection of our children is a community-wide responsibility.”
Attorney General Rutledge has issued the following tips to follow as you use social media this summer:
- Think twice about posting pictures of children online, especially photos of children that show a lot of skin.
- Remember that status updates, photos and videos posted on social networks are permanent. Once the user posts, it is out of his/her control and you do not know where it will end up. Consider purchasing cell phone monitoring services from a provider to monitor children’s mobile devices.
- Just as children are taught to use strong privacy settings, adults should use the strictest settings that are available to prevent unwanted individuals from seeing images of their children. For example, on Facebook, one of the available privacy settings requires explicit permission from the account holder before he or she can be tagged in a post or picture.
- Monitor social media posts from friends to ensure they are not posting photos of loved ones that could be stolen by people with sinister motives and end up in the hands of a child predator. Many social media platforms allow users to submit complaints regarding problematic posts and to request deletion of posts.
Whether enjoying a swim in Lake Ft. Smith, a hike at Petit Jean or just an afternoon with kids at a fair, it is important to remember that the safety of our children is everyone’s responsibility. We help by doing our part to protect our future by protecting our children.
Arkansans can report child exploitation by calling the National CyberTipline, (800) 843-5678, or visit CyberTipline.com. To report child abuse, call the Arkansas State Police Child Abuse Hotline, (800) 482-5964, or, in the event of an emergency, dial 911 or a local law enforcement agency.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or visit ArkansasAG.gov or facebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.
ATTORNEY GENERAL ALERT: Protecting the Financial Interests of Service MembersWed, Jul 3, 2019
LITTLE ROCK – While active duty service members protect us from Arkansas to the far corners of the world, the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) of 2003 protects their interests back home. Every day, our military members wake up thousands of miles away from their homes and work hard fighting for our liberty. The SCRA ensures that our American heroes will be protected from eviction from those very homes during their absence, in addition to providing protection on issues ranging from civil court postponements to interest rate caps.
“By nature, a service member’s duty to country prevents them from being involved in many interests they hold back home,” said Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “The SCRA protects our heroes them from issues related to and during a deployment or training. Sometimes it is not possible for them to appear for a civil court case, for instance, and the SCRA provides protections in that scenario. The Act is a way to recognize and thank military members for their constant sacrifice at home for the greater good.”
Attorney General Rutledge released the following tips as part of Military Consumer Protection Month to help service members who need to take advantage of the many protections provided under the SCRA:
- 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 for these types of issues include the recovery of monetary damages, legal costs and attorney fees.
The SCRA limits mortgage interest rates to 6 percent during military service and up to one year after service ends. Unless a court intervenes, it prevents a mortgage creditor from selling, foreclosing or seizing an active-duty service member’s mortgaged property during service and up to one year after military service terminates. The SCRA also provides protection requiring a judge to stay mortgage proceedings if a service member shows that military service has affected his or her ability to comply with mortgage obligations.
Many service members would benefit from mortgage relief measures, and the SCRA underscores this by prohibiting a mortgage servicer from requiring a service member to be delinquent on payments in order to qualify for loss mitigation relief if he or she would otherwise qualify.
The first-of-its-kind “Military and Veterans Initiative” launched by Attorney General Rutledge in 2015 focuses on protecting service members. It remains a key part of protecting service members from any consumer-related issues and works in collaboration with other programs to protect those who protect us.
Buyers Beware of Flood-Damaged VehiclesWed, Jun 26, 2019
LITTLE ROCK – Flood waters across Arkansas and surrounding states have receded with damaged homes, businesses, and vehicles remaining, but the potential for further consumer harm still exist. Consumers should use caution if they are considering purchasing a vehicle in the coming months as bad actors may be interested in lining their own pockets by selling water-damaged vehicles without disclosing the hidden damage.
“Arkansas law has safeguards in place to protect consumers from unscrupulous individuals and car dealerships,” said Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “However, many of these transactions happen as part of private sales.”
Attorney General Rutledge released the following tips for Arkansans to consider before purchasing a new or used vehicle that could have been involved in flooding.
- Always ask for the vehicle’s history report, such as CARFAX, before buying it
- Ask the seller if the car has been damaged by hail or flood waters, and always check the car’s title history.
- Inspect the vehicle for water stains and mildew in the vents and behind the dashboard. Also look under the hood for signs of oxidation.
- Flood damaged cars may look fine because of cosmetic repairs, but they may have defective electrical systems, steering problems, faulty computers, faulty air bag systems and persistent mold problems.
- Have the car inspected by an independent mechanic before deciding to buy.
- If the car has experienced significant damage and is considered a salvage vehicle, a buyer’s notification should be posted, and the price should be much lower than the price of a similar car with a clean title. Consider that it may be more difficult later selling a salvage vehicle and its value will be compromised.
Consumers should review a vehicle’s title for any flood damage reports, especially if it was last titled outside the state. Arkansas law requires dealerships to place a separate disclosure in the window of cars for sale that have previously been submerged, but consumers should be careful if purchasing a vehicle through a private sale. Although the private seller is required by Arkansas law to notify the buyer of any flood damage, a posted disclosure is not mandatory for this type of transaction.
Consumers who believe they have been sold a flood-damaged item that was not advertised as such should file a complaint with the Attorney General’s Office.
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 email@example.com or visit ArkansasAG.gov or facebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.