Attorney General Alerts
ATTORNEY GENERAL ALERT: Warning for Vacation Home Renters Ahead of Spring BreakThu, Feb 20, 2020
LITTLE ROCK – Renting personal properties for vacations has gained popularity in recent years with the creation of online marketplaces like Airbnb and VRBO. While the home and condo rentals can give visitors access to experiences they may not get staying in a traditional hotel, it can also allow criminals access to credit card numbers, valuable belongings and sensitive information.
“Vacation rentals make the hosts and visitors vulnerable to theft,” said Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “Being aware of risks and taking precautions can protect you and your family from loss.”
With Spring Break weeks away for many Arkansans and a recent uptick in these types of scams, Attorney General Rutledge issued these safety reminders for both hosts and visitors.
Tips for visitors:
- Only rent from reputable, well-known and insured sites.
- Do not move communication and final rental agreements and payments off the trusted website, even if a lower price is promised.
- Be aware if you are renting the whole property, or if the host will be on-site.
- Communicate with the host about your expectations.
- Pay attention to other travelers’ reviews of the property.
- Feel uneasy? Do not rent.
Tips for hosts:
- Only list your property on reputable, well-known and insured sites.
- Add watermarks to photos used for rental postings to make it more difficult for scammers to copy the photos and use them in fraudulent postings.
- Only conduct business on the website, even if the renter wants to pay in cash or requests a lower rate.
- Take, lock up or hide your personal belongings such as bank account information, personal identification information, valuables or sentimental belongings.
- Clearly disclose on the listing any area of the rental property that is off limits.
- Feel uneasy? Do not rent.
Do not be swayed by lower prices or waived fees if offered to conduct business off the reputable site. Communicating and booking outside the website causes safeguards such as insurance and company-wide scam prevention strategies to no longer be valid. If possible, verify the host or renters identity ahead of the stay. Other red flags include properties with few reviews and not enough photos on an advertised site.
If you believe a rental property scam has occurred, contact local law enforcement and the Arkansas Attorney General’s Office at (800) 482-8982 or email@example.com or visit ArkansasAG.gov or Facebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.
ATTORNEY GENERAL ALERT: 2020 Census ScamsWed, Feb 12, 2020
LITTLE ROCK – Every 10 years, the U.S. Census Bureau has the important job of counting every living person in our country. Beginning in mid-March, an invitation to participate will either be mailed or hand delivered to each home. If no response is received by May either by mail, online or over the phone, census takers will begin visiting homes and can return up to six times until the questionnaire is completed.
“This is one time every person will be contacted by a government entity,” said Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “It’s important for Arkansans to know which questions will and will not be asked by the Census Bureau and not fall prey to scammers pretending to be the Census Bureau.”
According to the Federal Trade Commission, the questionnaire asks:
- How many people are in the home?
- What is their sex, age, race and ethnicity?
- What is their relationship to one another?
- What is the best phone number to reach you?
- Do you own or rent the home?
For a full list of questions, go to 2020census.gov. According to the U.S Census Bureau, every answer is confidential and answers will only be used for statistical purposes.
The following information will NEVER be asked by the Census Bureau:
- Social Security number.
- Money or donations.
- Bank or credit card account information.
- Anything on behalf of or about a political party.
If you are asked these questions by a person claiming to be the with Census Bureau, it is a scam and you should not cooperate with them. Instead, hang up and report the call to the Census Bureau by calling 800-923-8282.
Some households will receive follow-up phone calls from the Census Bureau to ensure quality control. To help distinguish between legitimate Census Bureau calls and scammers, check out “Are You in a Survey? Help for Survey Participants” on the Census Bureau’s website.
If you suspect fraud, call 800-923-8282 to speak with a local Census Bureau representative or call the Attorney General’s Office at (800) 482-8982 or firstname.lastname@example.org. For more scam alerts, visit ArkansasAG.gov or Facebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.
ATTORNEY GENERAL ALERT: Don’t Go Phishing for Love in All the Wrong PlacesWed, Feb 5, 2020
LITTLE ROCK – Dating apps can be like a box of chocolates, but the surprise may be far less sweet. Valentine’s Day is another opportunity for con artists to take advantage of Arkansans putting their hearts and money on the line to find love. By using false pictures and information, a perfect “match” could be a set up for a scam.
“Meeting new people and dating has turned digital, with more than 1,500 dating apps available,” said Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “With so many ‘fish in the sea,’ Arkansans hope to catch a good one, but there is a risk. Keep your private information private and use caution and commonsense when looking for love online.”
Attorney General Rutledge released the following tips for social media users:
- Share your hopes and dreams, not your salary and bank information.
- Be honest about your expectations, not your pin number.
- Reveal your hobbies, not your passwords.
- Open your heart to love, not your wallet to a sob story.
- Plan to meet in public, not in a private, secluded or an unknown place.
- Talk about your favorite vacations, not when you’re leaving town.
- Hope for the best in others, but don’t ignore red flags.
For more information and tips to avoid scams and other consumer-related issues, contact the Attorney General’s Office at (800) 482-8982 or email@example.com or visit ArkansasAG.gov or Facebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.
ATTORNEY GENERAL ALERT: Tax Season is Prime Time for IRS ScammersWed, Jan 29, 2020
LITTLE ROCK – Tax season is like hunting season for con artists. Between the fear of making a mistake on your taxes, and the increased sophistication of scammers, opportunities are endless for bad actors looking to line their pockets during tax season. Each year, many scammers pose as agents with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) by sending emails with fake tax bills and transcripts to Arkansans. The malicious emails often include an attachment that is not a document from the IRS, but instead infectious malware. The email may even threaten arrest if payment is not received immediately using a gift card, prepaid debt card or wire transfer.
“No matter how convincing an email from an IRS employee may seem, even using your name and home address, no government entity will ever ask for payment from an untraceable source,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “This is just another shameful attempt at playing with Arkansans’ emotions and stealing their hard-earned money.”
The increase in data breaches has given criminals more access to sensitive information than ever before, helping make their schemes more believable.
Attorney General Rutledge issued the following tips for anyone who receives an email from someone claiming to be from the IRS:
- Do not reply to the email.
- Do not click on any links.
- Delete the original email.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or visit ArkansasAG.gov or Facebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.
ATTORNEY GENERAL ALERT: Prevent Your Home Security Systems from Being HackedWed, Jan 22, 2020
LITTLE ROCK – Home surveillance systems are designed to increase safety, but recent reports prove they may only be as secure as your passwords. Consumers often use the same passwords for multiple accounts, including these most popular and overused passwords you should never use. In recent years, credentials for more than 8 billion online accounts have been compromised, adding to the necessity of changing login information more frequently.
“Nothing is more important than your family’s safety,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “Hackers attacking your home security system could easily have eyes on our families, so just like changing the battery in a smoke alarm, we need to make changing our sensitive passwords a priority.”
Once a device such as a router or camera in your home is compromised, hackers can often connect to other systems. Since the security breach is through your own home system and not the security camera company, every camera or device connected to the internet is at risk.
Attorney General Rutledge offers these recommendations to help better secure your home from hackers:
- Create complex passwords for all accounts, including your cameras, WiFi and router
- Add two-factor authentication if available
- Upgrade to a cloud-based system
- Update devices regularly
- Choose a surveillance system from a reliable source with excellent customer service
If you receive a call, text or email with an unsolicited confirmation code request, consider changing your password immediately.
If your account is breached, contact your surveillance system provider and local law enforcement.
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.
ATTORNEY GENERAL ALERT: New Text and Email Scams Target Real Estate AgentsWed, Jan 15, 2020
LITTLE ROCK – Scam artists are using trusted names and companies to ask for “favors,” and in turn steal victims’ money. While some scams use fear and threaten arrest or cancelation of services if not paid, others convince people that they will be paid back whatever monies they spend on gift cards. This new scam uses real estate agents’ names to ask co-workers to pick up hundreds of dollars in gift cards for specific reasons such as closing gifts for clients.
“As we become more aware of possible scams, these bad actors are upping their game and using the people we know and trust to get to our money,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “They use familiar names and have believable requests, but when it comes to your money always use an abundance of caution, pick up the phone and call directly.”
Real estate agents can be particularly vulnerable because their name, phone number and place of work are easily accessible, but they are not the only ones susceptible to these scams. Attorney General Rutledge released the following tips to help keep Arkansans safe:
- Managers should instruct their staff on what the company’s purchasing practices are—consider adopting and explaining a policy where the company pays for expenses only through a credit card and that employee personal funds will never be requested
- Be skeptical of any text or phone call claiming to be a manager or co-worker that does not originate from their telephone number
- Verify the identity of the caller or person sending the text before acting upon it
- Remember that if it sounds unusual or too good to be true, then it is probably a scam
Realtors and those involved in the house buying process should also be aware of spoof emails suggesting that closing cost payment account details have suddenly changed. Scammers are skilled at infiltrating email systems and impersonating emails with fake addresses to attempt to divert hefty closing costs to alternate, fraudulent accounts. If you receive such an email, call your realtor or mortgage broker.