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Attorney General Alerts

Military Families Make Your Vote Count

Military Families Make Your Vote Count

Wed, Aug 10, 2016

Active duty military service members and their families are ensured voting eligibility in their state of legal residence under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act. This means that any active duty Arkansan stationed outside the State is still eligible to vote in the upcoming general election, including all State and local races.

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge issued today’s consumer alert to ensure military families are aware of the deadlines and the necessary steps to make their vote count on Tuesday, Nov. 8.

“Just like all Americans, active duty military members should ensure they are registered to vote,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “But families who are stationed in another state or overseas need to plan ahead to ensure they are registered in plenty of time, request the appropriate absentee ballot and have it turned in to be processed in a timely manner.”

Attorney General Rutledge released the following dates to help Arkansans stay on track to make sure their vote counts in November:

  • Friday, Sept. 23 – The federal government requires states to provide voters requesting an absentee ballot prior to this date with an absentee ballot. States can issue absentee ballots after this date, and active duty Arkansans can request an online ballot up to Election Day.
  • Monday, Oct. 10 – Deadline to register to vote in the general election.
  • Tuesday, Nov. 8 –Absentee ballots for active duty military members and their families must be postmarked by Election Day.
  • Friday, Nov. 18 – Deadline for county clerks to receive an absentee ballot from active duty military members and their families.

According to the Arkansas Secretary of State’s Elections Division, absentee ballots can be delivered through either the U.S. Postal Service or Ballot Safe, a secure online website. If the military service member decides to download the ballot instead of receiving a hard copy, the ballot will need to be printed, filled out and mailed to the county clerk, postmarked by Election Day, Nov. 8.

Military and family members are eligible to vote in their state of legal residence. This could be an original address, or the families can change their legal residence at each permanent duty station change. The American Bar Association encourages military families to keep voter registration, vehicle registration and State of legal residence the same for tax purposes.

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 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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Use Credit Cards with Care

Use Credit Cards with Care

Wed, Aug 3, 2016

As summer winds down, college students are headed back to school, which means being faced with additional expenses. For many students, signing up for a credit card may seem like a good solution.

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge issued today’s consumer alert to provide young Arkansans with helpful tips when entering the credit market.

“Credit cards are a convenient way to purchase items, however, discretion must be used so that no long-term problems occur,” Attorney General Rutledge said. “Exceeding the card’s credit limit or late payments will negatively impact your credit score. A low credit score will increase interest rates and make applying for loans more difficult.”

For those students who are considering applying for a credit card, Rutledge offered 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.
  • Always pay the balance owed. 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 combat the high-pressure solicitations and students burdened by credit card debt, the Arkansas General Assembly enacted legislation in 1999 that restricts the practice of marketing credit cards on college campuses.

In 2009, Congress passed the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act, which restricts on-campus credit card marketing nationwide. Under this law, the marketing of credit cards within 1,000 feet of a college campus or related event is prohibited. Consumers under age 21 must have a written application that includes the signature of a parent, legal guardian or spouse that has means to repay debts incurred by the account.

Credit card marketers are also forbidden from using gifts such as T-shirts and magazine subscriptions to entice a young consumer into applying for a card.

For more information on other consumer-related issues or to file a consumer complaint, contact the Attorney General's office at (800) 482-8982 or consumer@arkansasag.gov or visit ArkansasAG.gov or facebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.

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A Little Homework Can Save a Lot of Money

A Little Homework Can Save a Lot of Money

Wed, Jul 27, 2016

Teachers are beginning to decorate bulletin boards, school officials are mapping out daily school bus routes and parents are back-to-school shopping. From school supplies to new gadgets and clothes, parents can quickly go over budget.

Attorney General Leslie Rutledge issued today’s consumer alert to help parents get the most out of their money when purchasing school supplies.

“Back-to-school time is busy and can be financially stressful for parents,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “But it doesn’t have to be. A lot of money can be saved by doing your homework to find the best deals and only buying the necessities.”

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 remember that 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 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. 6 and 7.

According to the National Retail Federation, families spent nearly $70 billion in back-to-school and back-to-college spending last year. Meanwhile, they estimate $630 in spending per child in grades K-12.

For more information on keeping your finances secure and other consumer-related issues or to file a consumer complaint, contact the 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 Going for the Gold This Summer

Scammers Going for the Gold This Summer

Wed, Jul 20, 2016

The 2016 Summer Olympics are coming up, and many Arkansans are eagerly waiting to watch the events from the comfort of their own homes. Even though many of us are not making the trip to Rio de Janeiro, con artists are still looking for ways to scam fans.

Scammers are using phishing attacks to solicit sensitive, personal information through email. At first it appears to be a legitimate advertisement, even using terms like “Rio” or “Rio2016,” but do not click on any links or open any attachments in unsolicited emails because they could contain malware, which can steal log in information, as well as expose you to identity theft.

Meanwhile, some scammers are sending fake emails saying the recipient has won the Olympics lottery, including a grand prize of a trip to Brazil to watch the summer games. But remember it is a scam if you never entered the contest. You cannot win a lottery you never entered.

Another scam that could reach those Olympic fans staying stateside is counterfeit merchandise. Scammers try to capitalize on Americans’ desire to show team spirit by advertising clothing or Olympic souvenirs. Make sure the website is a legitimate Olympic retailer, and use a credit card instead of a debit card to make any online purchases because it offers additional protections.

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge issued today’s consumer alert to help Arkansans to not fall victim to any of these scams.

“Many Arkansans plan to show their support for Team U.S.A. in the coming weeks,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “It is critical though that we all remember to be smart consumers and protect our personal and financial information.”

Attorney General Rutledge released the following tips to help spot fake websites and emails about this summer’s Olympic Games:

  • Check the page for bad grammar and spelling mistakes.
  • Do not move forward with the transaction if they only take payment through online currency or wire transfers.
  • Use caution if the offer sounds too good to be true.
  • Review the site’s privacy policy before submitting any personal or financial information.
  • Read the comments and reviews section and take note of negative feedback.

For more information on steps to take if your identity has been stolen and other consumer-related issues or to file a consumer complaint, contact the Attorney General's office at (800) 482-8982 or consumer@arkansasag.gov or visit ArkansasAG.gov or facebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.

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Military Families have Credit Protections

Military Families have Credit Protections

Wed, Jul 13, 2016

The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) offers a number of protections for active duty members of the military and their families. The SCRA provides protections from evictions, postponement of civil court matters until the service member returns from active duty and also caps interest rates at 6 percent, but the SCRA also ensures that military servicemen and women who seek protections through the SCRA are not discriminated against by lenders.

The SCRA prevents lenders from denying or revoking credit, changing the terms of an existing loan or refusing to grant credit to a service member because they previously sought SCRA protections. Claiming those SCRA rights is not to be used as the basis for a lender to generate a negative credit report or conclude that the service member is unable to pay a debt.

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge issued today’s consumer alert during Military Consumer Protection Month to educate active duty members of the military about the SCRA and the many protections it offers.

“The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act protections are in place to ease legal and financial burdens on military service members and their families,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “The demands of active duty can take a toll on families. The brave men and women who put their lives on the line need to know the laws that are in place to protect them.”

Attorney General Rutledge released the following tips for active duty military service members who believe their rights under the SCRA have been violated:

  • 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 to these types of issues include the recovery of monetary damages, legal costs and attorney fees.

Rutledge is dedicated to serving and protecting military members through the first-ever Military and Veterans Initiative at the Attorney General’s office. This initiative assists active duty military, reservists, veterans and their families with consumer related issues, veterans courts, Hiring Heroes program and other collaborative efforts.

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 and tips to avoid scams and other consumer related issues, contact the Arkansas Attorney General’s office at (800) 482-8982 or consumer@arkansasag.govor visit ArkansasAG.gov or facebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.

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Spot Skimmers and Keep Your Cash

Spot Skimmers and Keep Your Cash

Thu, Jul 7, 2016

Scammers are adapting as technology continues to advance. While card reader fraud has been around for a number of years, these con artists are finding new ways to steal your money, like placing a skimmer on a credit and debit card reader.

A skimmer is a malicious card reader that goes over the existing card reader and is designed to steal data off the card’s magnetic stripe. These readers are small and can be installed anywhere there is a card reader, including ATMs and at the gas pump. The thief then clones the cards for his or her own use.

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge issued today’s consumer alert to educate Arkansans about this scam and provide tips to avoid falling victim to skimming.

“This type of card reader scam has evolved over the last decade, with CBS News reporting skimming instances rising 546 percent between 2014 and 2015,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “While that number is staggering, there are some clues Arkansans can look for that could be signs of a tampered card reader. Hard-working Arkansans should remain diligent in protecting their personal and financial information.”

Attorney General Rutledge released the following tips to catch a skimmer:

  • Check for obvious signs of tampering. If something looks different, such as a different color or material or the graphics are not aligned correctly, do not use that card reader.
  • Wiggle everything, including the card reader. ATMs are solidly constructed and usually will not have any parts that loosen. Also wiggle the card as it is inserted. PC magazine reports that the skimmer needs the card to go in straight to read the data correctly, but most ATMs take the card and return it later so the movement will not affect the transaction but could foil a skimmer.
  • Cover your hand while entering the PIN number. Criminals need your PIN number in order to use the card and will often set up small, hidden cameras to watch you enter the number. Shielding the keypad with your free hand could protect your bank account.
  • Use ATMs in busy locations. Scammers need time to install the skimming equipment and are less likely to take that risk if there are people around. ATMs inside banks and grocery stores are usually safer than those outside on the sidewalk.
  • Monitor both your bank account and credit card transactions and report any theft to your bank or card issuer as soon as possible. Consider setting up text or email alerts that go straight to your phone so that banks and credit card companies can reach you as soon as they notice any suspicious activity.
  • Use a credit card whenever possible because credit card transactions can be halted and reversed at any time. Meanwhile, an unauthorized debit transaction needs to be caught within 48 hours to keep your liability for the transfer low.

Because most of the current chip-enabled cards currently being used in the U.S. are also equipped with the magnetic stripe, they will not be protected from this type of scam.

For more information on steps to take if your identity has been stolen and other consumer-related issues or to file a consumer complaint, contact the Attorney General's office at (800) 482-8982 or consumer@arkansasag.gov or visit ArkansasAG.gov or facebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.

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