Attorney General Alerts
ATTORNEY GENERAL ALERT: Illegal Ponzi Schemes will only Steal Arkansan’s Hard-earned MoneyFri, Apr 24, 2020
Rutledge says, ‘If it seems too good to be true, then it probably is’
LITTLE ROCK – The COVID pandemic has sparked concern about more than just your personal health. It has created economic hardships for many Arkansans. As many seek to ensure they can pay their bills, illegal Ponzi schemes disguised as goodwill gestures such as so-called “Blessing Looms” are freely shared on social media that will ultimately steal money from those who fall prey.
“If it seems too good to be true, then it probably is,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “Blessing looms scams and other Ponzi schemes will ask for you to pay a small amount of money in order to receive a large payout as more people participate. I want every Arkansan to be aware of these schemes so they can keep their hard-earned savings in their wallets.”
Scammers use the “Blessing Looms” scam by posting it on social media and ask unwary readers to pay an entry fee (e.g., $100) with the promise that, as more people pay to build the pot of money by paying the entry fee, the participant will also get a payout (as much as $800) of that money. The surest way to identify these scams is if they promise large payouts in return for small investments, if they tell factually unsupported “success stories” of happy customers, or if they explain that future results rely on bringing in new participants to the scheme.
Attorney General Rutledge has identified several tips for Arkansans to use in protecting themselves against Ponzi schemes:
- If something sounds too good to be true, then it probably is. Know that large sums of money generally do not result from small investments.
- Safeguard banking and financial information in order to prevent theft due to scams.
- When using the internet, ensure that you are using a verified, secure, and encrypted website when sharing any personal or financial information online. Instead of clicking embedded links, consider typing the company’s actual URL website address in the search bar.
- Do not disclose personal information to an unknown person online because it could result in identity theft or the opening of other accounts in their name.
ATTORNEY GENERAL ALERT: Be Wary of Middlemen Promising Protective Equipment from Foreign ManufacturersTue, Apr 14, 2020
Rutledge says, ‘As with any business transaction, we should always be cognizant of deals that are too good to be true’
LITTLE ROCK – As state and local governments, hospitals and health care organizations, and businesses have worked to acquire personal protective equipment (PPE) to protect their employees and citizens from exposure, many middleman businesses have arisen to broker deals with foreign manufacturers in order to supply the desperately-needed equipment. These brokers purport to offer NIOSH-approved masks, face shields and gowns in mass quantities but at inflated prices. Furthermore, many brokers cannot verify the quality of the products or the authenticity of their overseas sources.
“Just like law enforcement officers expect and depend on their body armor for protection, individuals shouldn’t have to be concerned about the legitimacy of the PPE that they are wearing,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “As with any business transaction, we should always be cognizant of deals that are too good to be true. Buyers should do their due diligence to confirm the authenticity of the products prior to purchase and should report scam and price gouging suspicions to my office.”
Attorney General Rutledge provided the following tips in order to protect the public health and to avoid unintended consequences and financial losses:
- When ordering PPE from online retailers, always verify the Uniform Resource Locator (URL) and confirm “https” in the web address, as a lack of a security certification (“https”) may be an indicator that the site is insecure or compromised.
- The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) is part of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Air purifying respirators approved by NIOSH are available at https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/npptl/topics/respirators/disp_part/default.html.
- In particular, consult the NIOSH website to –
- For further guidance regarding non-NIOSH-approved respirator masks that may qualify as approved, consult guidance from the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) at https://www.fda.gov/media/136403/download.
- If procuring other categories of PPE such as gowns, gloves, goggles, and face shields, consult the manufacturer to verify authenticity and availability.
- Be wary of unprompted solicitations to purchase large quantities of PPE and do not provide usernames, passwords, personal identifying information (PII) such as social security number and date of birth, or financial information in response to an email or robocall.
- Ask the seller for information about the manufacturer, its location and its reputation for manufacturing high-quality goods.
- Check with the Secretary of State’s Office to determine if the broker is registered to do business in Arkansas and is in good standing.
To find out more information about COVID scams and fake websites, or file a consumer complaint visit ArkansasAG.gov or call (800) 482-8982.
ATTORNEY GENERAL ALERT: Virtual Meetings Can Put Arkansans at RiskWed, Apr 8, 2020
Rutledge says, ‘ensure these necessary online meeting platforms take every action to protect users’
LITTLE ROCK – Arkansans have adapted to a new environment where social distancing has become our new normal, and working from home brings a new set of challenges. Virtual meetings provide an essential mode of communication for work and school, but bad actors have also found opportunities to exploit vulnerabilities in the virtual environment to steal or extort money from individuals and businesses.
“Having fought online predators, I know that they seek to exploit any weakness in our security, whether targeting children or businesses,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “As Attorney General, I’ve been working to ensure these necessary online meeting platforms take every action to protect users as we all do our best to get through this current crisis.”
Attorney General Rutledge has provided these tips for Arkansans using virtual platforms to connect with each other while social distancing.
- Utilize tools provided by the online meeting platform to restrict access to virtual meetings, classrooms and conference calls, including the use of passwords if possible;
- Be wary of suspicious emails inviting you to click links or join meetings or to download shared documents;
- Be cautious of advertisements or emails purporting to be from telework software vendors;
- Join online meetings only if prearranged with a person with whom a preexisting business or personal relationship exists;
- Select trusted and reputable network software vendors;
- Don’t give personally-identifiable information in online meeting venues.
ATTORNEY GENERAL ALERT: Social Security Scam Demands Arkansans' Information for Continued PaymentsFri, Apr 3, 2020
Says, ‘The Social Security Administration will not suspend or discontinue your payments due to COVID-19’
LITTLE ROCK – Scam artists thrive on fear, and the COVID-19 pandemic has not slowed their illegal schemes. They are now using today’s financial uncertainty to trick Social Security beneficiaries into thinking their payments will be suspended unless they provide personal information to the scammer by phone, email or text. The Social Security Office of the Inspector General has confirmed, however, that beneficiaries will continue to receive scheduled payments during the current COVID-19 pandemic. Any letters, texts, emails or phone calls stating otherwise are a scam.
“The Social Security Administration will not suspend or discontinue your payments due to COVID-19,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “I urge anyone who receives a scam request for your personal bank account information to hang up the phone immediately.”
Scam artists have sent letters to Social Security beneficiaries by U.S. Mail and stated that benefit payments will be canceled unless he or she contacts the phone number identified in the letter. Some of these letters may even include a reference number in order to suggest that the letter is legitimate. Upon calling the phone number provided, beneficiaries are asked to give personal information or to make a payment with gift cards, wire transfers, internet currency or by mailing cash to ensure social security payments.
Attorney General Rutledge has provided the following tips to protect Arkansans from con artists:
- Government benefits do not require up-front payment of money, and requests for payment by gift card, wire transfer, internet currency, cash, or debit or credit cards are scams.
- Rely on information from well-known or government sources and websites that end in .gov. Examples include the Social Security Administration, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Arkansas Department of Health;
- Beware of requests that ask for your personal information, credit card information, Social Security number or banking information;
- Check the URL link for a "lock" icon before you proceed to make sure that the website is a secure site.
- Look for non-personalized email greetings like “Dear Sir or Madam,” and delete emails that insist you act urgently or immediately.
- Consider contacting a friend, loved one, or financial professional before providing information or agreeing to any proposal from a possible governmental entity.
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.
The Attorney General’s Office created a page that links to state and federal government resource pages for COVID-19 at ArkansasAG.gov/COVID19. Contact the office with any concerns about scams at (800) 482-8982.
ATTORNEY GENERAL ALERT: Don’t Get Conned During Tornado Clean-UpTue, Mar 31, 2020
Says, ‘to stay alert and use caution as they begin the clean-up process’
JONESBORO – Northeast Arkansas is now in the clean-up phase after a tornado devastated the area. While many Arkansans may want to help their neighbors clean up and rebuild, con artists will seize the opportunity to take advantage of this vulnerable moment.
“Home repair scams are common following severe weather and in these already difficult times can place additional strain on Arkansans when repairs aren’t completed as promised,” said Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “I urge all Arkansans to stay alert and use caution as they begin the clean-up process.”
Due to Governor Hutchinson’s disaster declaration on March 28, 2020, the Arkansas price gouging law is in effect for the Jonesboro area for 30 days for any materials necessary to recover from this disaster. The new ban on price gouging is in addition to the ban related to the COVID-19 public health emergency that is ongoing. Goods cannot be up-charged 10 percent more than they were did before the emergency declaration. If they are, businesses and individuals can face criminal charges and fines up to $10,000 per item. Consumers should report suspected price gouging to the Attorney General’s Office at ArkansasAG.gov/covid19.
Attorney General Rutledge released the following tips to ensure Arkansans hire a reputable contractor to complete home repairs:
- Beware of door-to-door solicitors selling home-repair work. To find someone reputable, ask friends or family who have recently used a home-repair contractor or professional. Consider contacting the Arkansas Contractor’s Licensing Board to verify that the contractor is licensed and has not had any complaints filed against it.
- Avoid any home-repair solicitor who asks for an upfront payment or who will not provide you with a written contract.
- Get at least three written estimates. A reputable contractor or professional will never try to pressure you to obtain your business.
- Obtain and check at least three references from your contractor or professional.
- Check with the Attorney General’s office or the Better Business Bureau to find out if the company has a complaint history.
- Obtain a written and detailed contract that includes the grade, quality, name brand and quantity of any materials to be used. The name and address of the contractor must be on the contract.
- Avoid paying for the entire job up front. One-third paid in advance, one-third paid halfway through the job and one-third paid upon completion is a better plan, helping assure that your project will be completed. Never make the final payment until you have had an opportunity to inspect the work.
- Remember that all contracts resulting from a home-solicitation sale generally must include a buyer’s right to cancel within three business days after the contract is signed.
- Make sure all warranties and guarantees are in writing.
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: Scammers Create Frenzy with Fake Government ChecksWed, Mar 25, 2020
LITTLE ROCK – As Congress works to complete the COVID-19 economic stimulus package, con artists have also been working non-stop to identify new ways to take advantage of Arkansans concerned about the economy. These scammers impersonate government officials and reach out to Arkansans by phone, email or social media demanding the victims’ personal and banking information to verify their eligibility for the government’s stimulus check.
“Bad actors come out in bad situations and will do anything to make a quick buck on the backs of concerned Arkansans,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “The federal government will never reach out asking for personal and banking information in order to confirm your eligibility for payment.”
Attorney General Rutledge has provided the following tips to keep you and your pocketbook safe.
- Only rely on official government websites (.gov) for economic relief information.
- Never give out your personal information over the telephone or email.
- When information becomes available, the Attorney General’s website will direct you to reliable sources.
Arkansas residents encountering someone demanding personal information to receive federal funds or other assistance should immediately contact the Arkansas Attorney General’s Office by visiting ArkansasAG.gov or call (800) 482-8982.