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Consumer Alerts

‘Kik’ Out Dangerous Apps

‘Kik’ Out Dangerous Apps

Wed, Nov 4, 2015

Young people are always looking for the newest apps to download on their mobile phones. But some of these apps allow children and teens to hide information from parents or allow anonymous group chats, both of which can be dangerous.

One app that is popular with Arkansas teens is called Kik. The app, however, raises concerns for parents. The Kik app has more than 240 million registered users and reports that 40 percent of U.S. teens are active, averaging 97 minutes per week on the app.

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge issued today’s consumer alert to educate parents about the potential dangers associated with social networking apps, such as Kik, that tout anonymity and hidden features.

“As moms, dads, grandparents, aunts and uncles, we need to educate the children in our lives not only about ways to stay safe on the Internet but also about how to understand the latest technologies,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “We need to get smart online. Know your child’s passwords and check their phone, contacts and social networking sites regularly. And remind kids that what they post online is permanent.”

Attorney General Rutledge released the following tips for both children and adults to protect themselves online.

  • Make a unique password for every social media site. 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. Just because a profile is deleted or information is removed, older versions can continue to exist on other sites.
  • Use caution when arranging a face-to-face meeting with someone you met online as they 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.
  • Parents and guardians should consider downloading a monitoring service app that allows them to view the child’s smartphone activity.

The dangers from apps like Kik are present in Arkansas. Kik was a factor in a Faulkner County arrest last month. Mitchell Johnson, 43, of Searcy was arrested for a crime involving a child after sending photos to an undercover officer via Kik. Meanwhile, James Breedlove, 52, of Bentonville was arrested in January for exchanging nude photos with 10 girls under age 17 on Kik.

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.

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Keep Halloween Scares to Ghosts and Ghouls

Keep Halloween Scares to Ghosts and Ghouls

Wed, Oct 28, 2015

Fall brings cooler temperatures, trees changing colors and Halloween. Many children and families enjoy the excitement and activities surrounding Halloween, including costume parties, haunted houses, hay rides and, of course, trick-or-treating. But sometimes the excitement of these activities can cause people to forget to be careful.

Attorney General Leslie Rutledge issued today’s consumer alert to remind families of precautions to take to have a safe, fun trick-or-treating outing.

“Boys and girls across Arkansas are ready for this Halloween weekend,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “But we all need to remember to take the necessary steps to keep them safe. This includes parents and guardians who have children ready to dress as their favorite super hero, cartoon character or princess but also anyone on the roadways on trick-or-treat night.”

Attorney General Rutledge released the following tips to parents to avoid unexpected and unnecessary Halloween scares:

  • Select flame-resistant materials, masks, beards and wigs and try to avoid baggy sleeves and billowing skirts.
  • Choose costumes with light or bright colors whenever possible, or trim a darker costume with reflective tape. Consider also having children carry a flashlight to make sure they can see and are visible to drivers.
  • To avoid tripping and falling, choose costumes that fit well and do not drag on the ground.
  • Make sure masks fit securely, have adequate ventilation and provide unobstructed views. Consider applying make-up to children’s faces instead of selecting loose-fitting masks.
  • Swords, knives and other accessories should be made of soft and flexible materials.
  • Take children to familiar neighborhoods and approach only homes with outside lighting.
  • Remind children of everyday safety rules, such as not getting into cars or talking to strangers, watching both ways before crossing streets and crossing with the light when they are trick-or-treating.
  • Adults should always accompany small children to caution them against running into streets and across lawns or driveways. Children should use sidewalks where available.
  • Encourage children to wait until they get home to eat candy so that adults can inspect the goodies.
  • Parents should throw away any treats that are not commercially wrapped or appear to be tampered with.

Attorney General Rutledge also reminds motorists to keep an eye out for children darting out from between parked cars or walking on roadways or curbs. Drivers should also enter and exit driveways and alleys carefully and watch attentively for children in dark clothing at dusk.

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

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Service Members Protected from Eviction

Service Members Protected from Eviction

Wed, Oct 21, 2015

The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) enacted in 2003 offers certain protections to members of the armed forces and their families so that service members can focus their full attention on their military responsibilities without adverse consequences for themselves or their families. The law also helps to ease financial burdens on service members and their families. One key section of the SCRA protects service members from eviction.

A landlord may not evict a service member or dependents from a home that is used as a residence during a time of military service without a court order. If an eviction action is filed, the court is required to temporarily stay, or delay, the proceedings for up to 90 days.

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge issued today’s consumer alert to educate military service members about the eviction protections they are provided.

“Some service members are unfamiliar with the SCRA and these unique protections that are offered to them,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “I began the Military and Veterans Initiative earlier this year to reach out to these brave men and women who put their lives on the line for us to make sure they know their rights and the many resources that are available to them.”

Attorney General Rutledge provided the following facts and tips about eviction protections in the SCRA:

  • Active duty members of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard are protected by the SCRA. Reservists with specific activation orders are also eligible.
  • In order to qualify for this eviction protection, the service member’s rent may not exceed $3,329.84 per month. This ceiling is adjusted each year to match inflation.
  • Eviction protections are offered regardless of whether the lease originated before or after the service member entered military service.
  • Contact the nearest Armed Forces Legal Assistance Program office if you suspect SCRA rights were violated.
  • If that office cannot resolve the complaint, it may choose to forward the complaint to the Department of Justice, which will review the matter to determine if action is appropriate.
  • In emergency situations, such as pending eviction, contact the Civil Rights Division’s Housing and Civil Enforcement Section.

The SCRA also assists service members to terminate a lease or rental agreement without penalty. This protection applies to service members who are scheduled for deployment or re-assignment, as long as the lease began prior to active duty. In order to terminate the lease, the member must deliver written notice to the landlord with a copy of military orders. Oral notice is not sufficient.

Meanwhile, Arkansas has a law protecting all renters from excessive security deposits. Landlords who rent six or more dwellings cannot charge more than what would be two months’ rent. The deposit must also be returned within 60 days of moving, but landlords may deduct the cost of any damages or past-due rent.

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, call the Arkansas Attorney General’s Office at (800) 482-8982 or visit ArkansasAG.gov or facebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.

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What’s in the Chip?

What’s in the Chip?

Wed, Oct 14, 2015

Debit and credit cards are getting a new look. A computer chip is being added to both types of cards to make consumers’ information more secure.

All major credit card providers, including MasterCard, Visa, Discover and American Express, are currently sending Arkansans new cards to replace existing credit cards, and banks are issuing new debit cards.

Now, instead of swiping the card to complete the transaction, cards equipped with the computer chip will be inserted or “dipped” into a slot and left there until the transaction is completed. The buyer will be prompted to remove the card and to sign for the payment or enter a pin.

Attorney General Leslie Rutledge issued today’s consumer alert to educate Arkansans about this new credit card and the security benefits of this new technology.

“Computer hacks and data breaches are becoming more common as criminals target consumers and their credit,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “This new technology protects Arkansans’ personal information much better than the old magnetic strip credit cards. The computer chip creates a unique transaction code that cannot be used again; therefore, any stolen transaction numbers would be void and criminals would be denied if they attempted forge an Arkansan’s credit card.”

Attorney General Rutledge released the following tips for Arkansans to use during the transition to these new cards:

  • When new credit or debit cards with the computer chip have been received, shred or destroy the old cards.
  • Research the new cards and become familiar with the new transaction processing, which involves a new way to use your credit card at checkout. Financial institutions should have information on the technology on their websites.
  • Continue to review your financial statements. This new technology creates a barrier for thieves, but no safeguard is perfect. The moment an error or unauthorized charge appears on a bank statement, the institution should be notified. Chip cards provide the same consumer protections offered by current cards, and the consumer will continue to have zero liability for fraudulent transactions.

Major credit card issuers created an Oct. 1 deadline for merchants to have the new card readers in working order, or be held liable for any fraudulent transactions occurring at their establishment. Automated fuel dispensers will have until 2017 to comply with these updates.

Electronic Transactions Association reports that an estimated 90 percent of counterfeit card fraud could be eliminated with chip card deployment in the United States. Meanwhile, the Arkansas Attorney General’s Office continues to investigate past data breaches related to payment processing systems and stands ready to protect Arkansans in any future cases.

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

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How Can Your Attorney General Help?

How Can Your Attorney General Help?

Wed, Oct 7, 2015

The Attorney General’s Office is committed to Arkansans. For those who believe they have been taken advantage of by businesses, such as with defective products or erroneous bills, phone counselors and investigators can be your first line of defense to resolve these disputes. The Office also works to educate Arkansans about ways to spot a con artist to avoid falling victim to scams.

The Attorney General’s office mediates thousands of complaints each year, even recovering financial losses for many Arkansans.

In May, Attorney General Leslie Rutledge began her mobile office initiative with staff members traveling to each county in the State to reach constituents in their hometowns and not just in a high-rise office building in the capital city. Staff members assist consumers in filing consumer complaints and answer questions about the full range of services provided by the Attorney General’s Office.

Attorney General Leslie Rutledge issued today’s consumer alert to encourage Arkansans to utilize her office if they have a consumer complaint or think they may have been scammed.

“The Attorney General’s Office has phone counselors, investigators, and attorneys who are ready to help Arkansans,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “These professionals are specially trained to assist and advise consumers on a variety of situations and can direct consumers to additional resources and help file consumer complaints. The Attorney General's Office is here to protect you.”

Attorney General Rutledge released the following steps for consumers to follow if they have a complaint:

The Attorney General’s Office also works with local law enforcement to investigate and combat Medicaid and Social Security fraud, metal theft, identity theft and cyber crimes against children.

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

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Auto Recalls Causing Headaches

Auto Recalls Causing Headaches

Wed, Sep 30, 2015

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), approximately 1.3 million consumers are potentially affected by more than 50 recalls that have been announced for vehicles or parts of vehicles in September alone.

Last week, General Motors (GM) reached a settlement with the United States Department of Justice for faulty ignition switches, which reportedly resulted in at least 124 deaths along with numerous injuries. GM is required to pay $900 million, with an additional $575 million to resolve a number of private lawsuits. Meanwhile, NHTSA continues to investigate Japanese manufacturer Takata for ongoing problems with their air bag inflators used in approximately 19 million vehicles. The Arkansas Attorney General’s Office is participating in both investigations.

Recalls are issued when minimum federal motor vehicle safety standards are not met on items like brakes, tires, lighting, air bags, safety belts and child restraints.

Attorney General Leslie Rutledge issued today’s consumer alert to encourage Arkansans to take a proactive approach to vehicle recalls.

“Manufacturer recalls can be worrisome and may seem complicated for consumers,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “But Arkansans should consider these notices urgent warnings and make plans to have the issue corrected quickly. It is important that everyone understands these recalls and how to determine whether vehicles are subject to a recall.”

Attorney General Rutledge released the following tips to help Arkansans research recalls:

  • Visit Safercar.gov to use the NHTSA’s database to look up recalls, investigations and complaints by a vehicle’s year, make and model.
  • Contact the vehicle manufacturer or car dealer to search for recalls by the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN), which is visible from the outside of the vehicle through the windshield on the driver’s side.
  • Sign up at Safercar.gov to receive email notifications from the NHTSA to learn when manufacturers file new recalls.
  • Confirm with NHTSA or with the Arkansas Attorney General’s office to make sure recall notifications are valid and real.

Manufacturers must notify owners of all affected vehicles via mail or phone with information that identifies the problems and evaluates the safety risk. Consumers must be told how the problem can be corrected, how long it will take to correct the issue and where the repairs can be made. The NHTSA may also require manufacturers to notify the public of recalls through advertisements or other notices. Recall repairs only cover the part or parts that can be replaced or repaired and do not provide the owners with a new vehicle.

If the vehicle was purchased new, manufacturers have the name and address of vehicle owners, along with the VIN number of all the vehicles. Arkansans purchasing a used car should notify the manufacturer with the updated information. The vehicle is still eligible for recall repairs, including those that occurred prior to the purchase that have not been fixed. Almost all recalls will be fixed at no charge to the owner.

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

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