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:
- Gather all documentation that will support the claim of a complaint, including mailings, bank statements and receipts.
- Contact the company directly and notify them of the complaint. Offer a reasonable and specific remedy that will resolve the complaint. At times, these can be resolved informally.
- If the issue cannot be resolved by contacting the company, contact the Attorney General’s office at (800) 482-8982, or to file a formal complaint, complete the complaint form online.
- An investigator at the Attorney General’s Office will confirm the complaint submission within five business days, and within 10 business days, the investigator will submit the complaint to the business. The goal is to help obtain a successful resolution to each consumer 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.
Auto Recalls Causing HeadachesWed, 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.
Prescription Drug Take Back DayWed, Sep 23, 2015
Nearly 44,000 people die from drug overdoses each year, with more than half of those because of abuse of prescription drugs. The National Institution on Drug Abuse reports that 62 percent of teens abuse prescription drugs because they are easy to obtain from their parent’s medicine cabinet, and prescription drugs are considered a gateway drug, with nearly half of heroin users reporting to have abused prescription drugs before beginning to use heroin.
Saturday is the 11th annual National Prescription Drug Take Back Day. The Arkansas Attorney General’s Office is partnering with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and the Office of the State Drug Director, along with 104 law enforcement agencies across the State, to coordinate local drop off events. Law enforcement officers will be available at 126 collection sites to collect and destroy pills in a safe and environmentally responsible manner. Since the program began, 72 tons of medication has been collected in Arkansas, which is an estimated 201 million individual pills.
Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge issued today’s consumer alert to encourage all Arkansans to participate and to inform them of the medications that will be accepted at the drug take-back events.
“It can be dangerous to keep unused prescription medication,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “These pills need to be properly disposed of to avoid them falling into the wrong hands and harming loved ones or the environment, which is why I encourage Arkansans to clean out their medicine cabinets and participate in Saturday’s Drug Take Back Day. Prescription Drug Take Back Day allows Arkansans to drop off any unwanted medications, no questions asked, for proper disposal.”
Attorney General Rutledge issued the following list of medications that will be accepted at these events across the State on Saturday.
- Opioids, such as OxyContin
- Stimulants, such as Adderall
- Depressants, such as Ativan
- Other prescription medications
- Over-the-counter medicines
- Pet medicines
- Medicated ointments and lotions
- Liquid medicines in glass or leak-proof containers (up to 12 ounces)
- Medicine samples
Medications may be returned in any container or removed from the original pill bottles for increased privacy.
Properly destroying these medications protects the environment. Medicines that are flushed or poured down the drain can end up polluting waters, which could contaminate food and water supplies. Many medicines are not removed by wastewater treatment plants or septic systems. Turning over these medications at the Take Back Day events also reduces the risk of accidental poisonings by children, seniors or pets, as well as reduces the risk of drug abuse. According to DrugFree.org, more than 40 percent of teens who misused or abused prescription drugs got the medicine out of their parents’ or grandparents’ medicine cabinets.
The Prescription Drug Take Back event is from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 26. To find event sites and year-round drop-off locations near you, go to ARTakeBack.org. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration recently announced that pharmacies will now be allowed to accept unused prescription medications.
Scammers Pose as Veteran AdvocatesWed, Sep 16, 2015
Navigating the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) can be an overwhelming process for military men and women of all ages. Veteran advocates are available to guide service members through the system. However, advocates should be accredited with the VA and offer free services, and unfortunately scammers are exploiting the system and stealing from veterans.
Attorney General Leslie Rutledge issued today’s consumer alert to educate veterans, servicemen and women and military families about ways to spot scam artists posing as legitimate veteran advocates.
“It is terrible that con artists target these brave men and women who serve and protect our country,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “Dishonest advisors can steer veterans in wrong direction and steal money from them. Some of these ‘advisors’ go to great lengths to appear trustworthy, even renting a storefront or creating a logo that is similar to a trusted advocate program.”
Attorney General Rutledge released the following tips for members of the military community looking for assistance.
- Applying for veterans’ benefits is free, and those accredited by the VA are not allowed to charge for assisting or submitting paperwork.
- Confirm that an advocate is accredited through the VA and has been trained to help with completing and submitting claims to the VA by going to the Veterans Service Organizations section of the VA website.
- Research advocate organizations to find out more information about their practices before agreeing to work with them.
- Do not be pressured into agreeing to work with an advocate. Do not spend any money until considering all the options. Advocates should not require payment or advanced fees.
- Only the VA can approve or deny claims. Even advocates who are accredited by the VA cannot promise any specific outcome.
The Federal Trade Commission tracks unscrupulous advocates who encourage veterans to move financial assets to qualify for Aid and Attendance benefits. Shifting money around could result in veterans losing other benefits, including Medicaid. Aid and Attendance benefits help senior veterans who need assistance to pay for in-home care, assisted living facilities or nursing homes and cannot be guaranteed because they are only available in limited circumstances.
Contact the Arkansas Attorney General’s Office Public Protection Department at 800-482-8982, the VA Office of Inspector General at 800-488-8244 or the Federal Trade Commission at 202-326-2222 to report any issues with veteran advocates. Complaints may also be submitted to the VA Office of Inspector General at va.gov/oig/hotline. For more information on other tips to avoid being scammed visit ArkansasAG.gov or facebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.
Looking for Tickets?Wed, Sep 9, 2015
Fall is on its way, which means football season is here and unfortunately so are scalpers looking to take advantage of ticket buyers. Many Arkansans may be planning trips to check out their favorite team and watch the action in person. Some may choose to see the Razorbacks, the Red Wolves or any other team in college towns across the State over the next several months.
Attorney General Leslie Rutledge issued today’s consumer alert to encourage Arkansans to be cautious when purchasing tickets. One of the most common online scams is selling tickets that do not exist. This practice is getting easier as online pay practices get simpler.
“Football season is in full swing across the Natural State,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “And that means that game tickets are a hot commodity. Consumers should be cautious when purchasing tickets from third parties to minimize the chance of purchasing fraudulent tickets.”
Attorney General Rutledge released the following tips for safe ticket purchases:
- Research the seller or broker with the Better Business Bureau and ensure they are a member of the National Association of Ticket Brokers.
- A legitimate ticket broker will offer a refund policy. Only buy tickets from a reseller that provides clear details about the terms of the transaction.
- Always use a credit card to place the purchase because a buyer has some recourse if the tickets are fraudulent.
- Check the seats ahead of time. Ask for section, row and seat number to avoid obstructed views and purchasing tickets that do not exist.
- Stick with well-known ticket sellers who offer guarantees and policies that protect buyers and have the ability to investigate and restrict accounts of merchants who violate the policies.
- If a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is. Refuse to be rushed. Scam artists often try to hurry prospective buyers into making a decision.
According to AARP, nearly 5 million consumers receive fraudulent concert, sporting event and theme park tickets each year.
Consumers who think they may have purchased a counterfeit ticket can contact the National Association of Ticket Brokers at 630-510-4594 or the Arkansas Attorney General’s Public Protection Department. For more information on other tips to avoid being scammed and other consumer-related issues, call the Arkansas Attorney General’s Office at 800-482-8982 or visit ArkansasAG.gov or facebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.
Staying Safe on Social MediaWed, Sep 2, 2015
When used appropriately, social media sites are an enjoyable and effective way to keep in touch with friends and family. But there are potential dangers associated with these sites, including online predators. Social networking sites can provide a false sense of security for users who ignore the risks in making connections online.
Attorney General Leslie Rutledge issued today’s consumer alert to provide online safety tips to Arkansans to keep everyone and their personal information safe.
“Online social networking has become an everyday way of life,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “All Arkansans, but particularly teens, need to be made aware of the downfalls of social media. Parents and families must explain proper Internet habits and uses. This requires moms and dads, aunts and uncles and grandparents to get smart online.”
Attorney General Rutledge released the following tips for parents and families to keep their teens and children safe online:
- Keep tablets, laptops and cell phones in a shared area of the house with frequent foot traffic so that responsible household members can monitor times of use and materials viewed.
- Establish guidelines about the use of these devices, as well as an open dialogue on what is acceptable online behavior.
- Be aware of what Internet sites are frequented by children and teens. Blocking or screening services are available through Internet service providers or by purchasing software.
- Consider how different social networking sites operate before deciding if a child should join. Some sites allow only specific age groups or a defined community of users to access posted content, while others allow anyone and everyone to view postings.
- Remind teens that once information is posted online, it cannot be removed. Even if information is deleted from a site, older versions can continue to exist on other sites. Helping to keep control over posted information by restricting access to a select group of people is advisable.
- Warn children to be wary of friends they know solely online and never give out their telephone number, home or school address or other personal information.
- Discuss the dangers of meeting new online friends in person, and encourage them to share with a trusted adult if an online friend’s behavior seems strange.
Social networking sites have exploded in popularity in the past decade. According to a Pew Research survey last month, Facebook reports that 72 percent of U.S. adults who are online are active users, meanwhile 23 percent are on Twitter, 28 percent are on Instagram and 18 percent are on Snapchat. Snapchat is reported to be the fastest growing social media platform especially among children, teens and young adults.
For more information on Internet and social media safety and other consumer-related issues, call the Arkansas Attorney General’s Office at (800) 482-8982 or visit ArkansasAG.gov or facebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.