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Attorney General Alerts

Handling Court Proceedings During Active Military Duty

Handling Court Proceedings During Active Military Duty

Wed, May 11, 2016

Some military service members could find themselves facing bankruptcy, foreclosure or other civil court proceedings, including child custody or visitation challenges, while they are on active duty. The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) gives active duty military members a right to postpone those proceedings for at least 90 days.

The SCRA also provides protections against default judgments when a defendant does not appear in court because of military service. If a default judgment is entered against an active duty military member or within 60 days after being released from service, the judge must appoint an attorney to represent the service member’s interests. The service member can request the court reopen the case while still on active duty or within 90 days of his or her return.

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge issued today’s consumer alert to educate members of the U.S. military about the court protections they are provided under the SCRA.

“These brave members of our military protect us each day, and it is our duty to protect them back home,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “It is important that service members have the opportunity to defend themselves and be notified of any civil proceeding filed against them, and that is what this section of the SCRA does.”

Military service members must request the original 90-day postponement, and they can also request the postponement be extended. Rutledge released the following tips on what the request to the court should include:

  • A letter, formal memo or an email addressed to the court
  • An explanation of how military duties materially affect your inability to appear
  • A date that you would be able to appear
  • A statement from your commanding officer about duties that are preventing your appearance in court and that military leave is not authorized at the time of the court’s request.

Service members can show their service materially affects their ability to appear in court by proving that their ability to defend the suit is impaired by military duties that prevent them from appearing at the designated time and place or from assisting in the preparation or presentation of the case.

Protections under the SCRA do not apply to criminal proceedings.

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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Who is Knocking?

Who is Knocking?

Wed, May 4, 2016

Door-to-door salespeople are hitting the streets, selling home improvement projects, home security systems, newspapers, magazines and much more. Sometimes they use high-pressure sales tactics, and occasionally the salesperson misrepresents the products they are selling. Arkansans may have second thoughts about the purchase and want to cancel the item or service, and Arkansas law protects consumers who find themselves in any of these situations.

The Arkansas Home Solicitation Sales Act gives Arkansans the right to cancel any home solicitation sale within three days of purchasing the item or services. Consumers can also cancel a sale made at any location that is not the seller’s permanent place of business, such as fair booths.

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge released today’s consumer alert to inform Arkansans about their rights under the Arkansas Home Solicitation Sales Act.

“Arkansas consumers need to know their rights when it comes to door-to-door solicitations,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “It can be difficult to say no to a seller standing at your front door, but consumers can cancel a contract at any point during the three-day period, for any reason, even if the seller has already installed equipment.”

Attorney General Rutledge released the following tips to Arkansans who may be faced with a salesperson at their door:

  • Because these solicitations can be stressful, prepare a “just say no” script ahead of time and practice it. For example, you could respond to the salesperson by saying, “Thank you for coming by, but we are not in need of your product or service. Have a good day.” Then close your door.
  • Some cities require that a door-to-door salesperson obtain a license or certification prior to engaging in sales. Check with local authorities before purchasing.
  • Take a few days to consider the sales offer. It may be advantageous to shop around or do research to make sure the deal is legitimate.
  • Do not allow a salesperson to install any product the same day. However, if equipment is installed in the home prior to the end of the three-day cancellation window, a consumer still has the right to cancel the sale or contract.
  • Be wary of “free” installation or equipment deals. Even if something is initially offered free of charge in order to make a sale more attractive, a consumer could eventually pay for the product with high-cost, long-term contracts.
  • Do not give into high-pressure sales pitches, such as offers being “for today only,” that a home has been “specially selected” for a deal or that the seller is “trying to get rid of extra inventory.”
  • Never let a salesperson into your home unless they have provided proper identification and you have determined exactly what he or she wants.

The Home Solicitation Sales Act applies to purchases of $25 or more and requires a salesperson to verbally inform consumers of their cancellation rights at the time of the sale or contract is completed. The seller must leave the customer with two copies of the cancellation form and a copy of the contract or receipt.

The Act has limited exceptions and does not apply when the consumer requests a home visit, for example, to repair personal property, such as heating and air systems or appliances.

For more information on home solicitations 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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A Doggone Scam

A Doggone Scam

Wed, Apr 27, 2016

Every day, families across Arkansas decide to add a puppy to their home. Many families go to a nearby shelter to adopt or turn to a trusted breeder, but some will look for their newest family member through an online breeder.

These breeders have photos of adorable puppies and guarantee they are up-to-date on all vaccinations. Glowing testimonials are even available throughout the site. But consumers should use caution as this could be a scam artist targeting families by advertising puppies at a price lower than other breeders or even offering the dog for free if the buyer pays shipping.

While this may seem like a good option, many times families never receive the pet, and fraudsters get away with the money.

Attorney General Leslie Rutledge issued today’s consumer alert to educate Arkansans about this scam to exercise caution when looking for a new pet.

“When a family decides to add a furry member to their household, there are a number of considerations,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “This includes whether to adopt or purchase a pet and where to find a pet for their home. Unfortunately, con artists have found a way to prey on these kind-hearted would-be pet owners.”

Attorney General Rutledge released the following tips for families interested in purchasing a new puppy:

  • Visit the breeder or rescue group offering the puppy. Responsible individuals and organizations will allow potential customers to tour their facility.
  • Search the organization’s website for warning signs that it may be a scam. Fake breeder websites can often look real because they steal content from legitimate rescue sites. Look for duplicate sites by copying a line from the website into a search engine and looking for identical wording elsewhere on the Internet.
  • Arrange to pick up the puppy from a kennel instead of meeting the breeder at a potentially unsafe location. Do not rely on the breeder to ship the animal, and never pay for shipping.
  • Check the organization’s references. Talk to others who have purchased pets from this breeder and the breeder’s veterinarian.
  • Pay for the puppy with a check or credit card. If a breeder pressures for a wire transfer or prepaid debit card payment, it is probably a scam.

Attorney General Rutledge encourages Arkansans to do their research regarding adopting and purchasing pets. If you have questions about a potential pet shipper, the International Pet and Animal Transportation Association provides a list of trusted shippers across the world.

For information on wire transfer scams and other consumer-related issues, 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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Fraudsters Scamming Companies Out of Billions

Fraudsters Scamming Companies Out of Billions

Wed, Apr 20, 2016

A little-known scam has swindled a total of $2.3 billion out of both large and small companies across the world in the last three years, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Scammers are spoofing a CEO’s email address, contacting employees and directing those employees to wire money from the company to a new vendor or for a new business venture. The overseas account, unbeknownst to the innocent employee, is a fraudulent account, and the money goes straight into the hands of scammers.

This low-tech scam can be run from anywhere in the world. All these scam artists need is the company executive’s email address, which can usually be found through websites or a social media account. According to the Financial Times, many of these offshore bank accounts where the money ends up are located in Asia or Africa, but U.S. authorities have traced the money involved to 108 countries.

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge issued today’s consumer alert to educate Arkansas businesses about the potential of this scam.

“While this scam may not have made recent headlines, it is impacting businesses across the country,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “These criminals use information gathered online to make the emails as convincing as possible. They then use high-pressure tactics, including follow-up phone calls to the employee, to ensure the employee follows through with the transfer.”

Attorney General Rutledge released the following tips to prevent employees from falling victim to this scam:

  • Implement a verification system where staff can properly contact and check with the CEO or senior staff members.
  • Verify the legitimacy of the request by contacting the person using the contact information you have stored rather than the one given during the call or within the email.
  • Be vigilant to any urgent or confidential request not respecting the standard working procedure.
  • Follow your intuition. If there is any doubt, it is better to take the time to check.

These scam artists are using persuasive dialog to convince these employees to wire the money, and they know staff are less likely to question directions from the CEO, coupled with a sense of urgency, manipulates the employees to following their instructions.

This scam has been successful because there is nothing for traditional email security systems to block because it appears to be legitimate correspondence that is being sent directly to its target. Therefore, companies must educate employees and implement a verification system to avoid falling victim to this type of fraud.

For more information on wire transfer scams and other consumer-related issues, 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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Cell Phone Contracts and Military Deployments

Cell Phone Contracts and Military Deployments

Wed, Apr 13, 2016

Military servicemen and women and their families face many decisions while preparing for and returning from a deployment. The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) aims to protect these families from potential financial and legal hardships during this time.

Among other protections, the SCRA caps the interest rates on loans, prevents eviction for service members while preparing for deployment, offers certain insurance protections and allows for the termination or suspension of installment contracts during deployment or when they receive permanent change of station (PCS) orders. Cell phone contracts are one particular type of installment contract covered by the SCRA.

Attorney General Leslie Rutledge issued today’s consumer alert to educate active duty military families, including reservists, about the options they have regarding cell phone contracts when receiving new military orders.

“These brave men and women who put their lives on the line to protect us deserve additional protections provided under the SCRA,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “It is important that they know the specifics of these protections, including the ability to cancel or suspend cell phone contracts, if they have received new military orders. It also prohibits cell phone service providers from imposing an early termination fee or reactivation fee or requiring a contract extension.”

Attorney General Rutledge released the following list of requirements that must be met in order to qualify for this specific protection:

  • The cell phone contract must have been entered into before deployment or PCS orders are issued.
  • Deployment or PCS orders must be for outside the continental United States for 90 days or more.
  • For PCS orders within the United States, the change of duty must materially affect the ability to use the service or the ability to satisfy the terms of the contract, such as provider service is not available in the relocation.
  • The cell phone service provider must be contacted before the orders take affect and be provided with a copy of the military orders.

Attorney General Rutledge recommends documenting all interactions with the provider in case there are any questions and getting a copy of the cancellation or suspension of service in writing.

If the provider suspends, instead of cancelling the contract, the service member may be required to honor the terms of the contract when returning stateside.

Attorney General 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.gov or visit ArkansasAG.gov or facebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.

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Vehicle Buyers Beware of Storm Damage

Vehicle Buyers Beware of Storm Damage

Wed, Apr 6, 2016

Severe thunderstorms have hammered the Natural State the past few weeks causing hail damage and flooding. These storms may be quick but can cause lasting and severe damage to vehicles. Photos have been circulating of golf-ball sized hail and flooded parking lots, both of which wreak havoc on vehicles.

Dents and dings caused by hail damage seldom affect the mechanics of a vehicle, but if consumers are planning to participate in one of the many ‘hail sales’ that are being advertised, they should be prepared. Buyers should obtain a disclosure of the damage in writing from the seller and also check with their own insurance carriers to see how the hail damage may impact coverage of future repairs.

Meanwhile, consumers should review a vehicle’s title for any flood damage reports. 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.

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge issued today’s consumer alert to encourage Arkansans to research both sellers and vehicles before purchasing a car that could have damage from recent storms.

“Many car dealers follow Arkansas law and provide the proper documentation when selling hail or water damaged vehicles,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “Some dealerships are even offering ‘hail sales’ to clean out their damaged inventory, but some unscrupulous sellers may be trying to take advantage of consumers by selling damaged vehicles without proper disclosure.”

Attorney General Rutledge released the following tips for consumers shopping around for a new or used vehicle:

  • 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 your own mechanic before you decide 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 you may have difficulty later selling a salvage vehicle and its value will be compromised.

For more information on purchasing a vehicle and other consumer-related issues, 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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