Attorney General Alerts
Resort Fees Can Be CostlyWed, Jun 1, 2016
Summer travel plans are taking shape, and some of those trips could take Arkansans out of state to Las Vegas, Orlando or San Diego. Meanwhile, some Arkansans are planning trips closer to home, in Little Rock, Bentonville or one of the many state parks. But there are some hotels in popular destinations that may charge additional fees called resort fees.
Resort fees are mandatory surcharges added to hotel bills for use of the hotel gym and pool towels -- even the morning newspaper or local phone calls. These fees are applied prior to the hotel stay and are charged even if those services are not rendered during the stay. Find out if the hotel you’re planning to stay in charges resort fees at ResortFeeChecker.com.
Because many Arkansans travel with a limited vacation budget, Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge issued today’s consumer alert to inform consumers about these additional and oftentimes hidden fees.
“Resort fees are little-known charges that hotel guests are on the hook for,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “Hotels like these fees because they can keep their advertised price low but increase the price through these fees. Time and again the traveler is not made aware of this additional cost until the end of the transaction when taxes are also applied.”
Attorney General Rutledge released the following additional information about resort fees:
- High-end facilities have been charging resort fees since the 1990s, but within the last 10 years, more hotels have been charging these additional fees.
- Critics are encouraging the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to require hotels to disclose their fees upfront, similar to how the Department of Transportation mandated airlines to provide a detailed list of fees.
- Read the fine print before finalizing the transaction. Be mindful that these fees are often not revealed until after the booking process has begun. But the reservation can be abandoned by exiting the screen or hanging up the telephone.
- Ask if the hotel will waive the resort fee, especially if you do not intend on using the amenities.
- The extra money paid in resort fees does not usually go toward any loyalty programs.
The FTC sent warning letters to 22 hotel operators in 2012 encouraging them to disclose the resort fees. But these fees continue and some high-end hotels in popular destinations charge up to $100 per night, according to ResortFeeChecker.com.
For more information about ways to stay safe while traveling and other consumer-related issues or to file a consumer complaint, contact the Attorney General's office at (800) 482-8982 or firstname.lastname@example.org or visit ArkansasAG.gov or facebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.
What Are You Posting Online?Wed, May 25, 2016
When reports of sexual abuse of a child or an individual viewing explicit images of children emerge, Arkansans often wonder how something like this could happen here. Many parents think it could never happen to their child, because they monitor their child’s phone and Internet use. Unfortunately, though, child predators are using advancements in technology and are finding new ways every day to prey on children and teens.
The Attorney General’s Cyber Crimes Unit reports that predators will sometimes harvest from social media sites and other online sources finding seemingly innocent photographs taken by proud, well-meaning parents of children in swimsuits, dance costumes or even sports uniforms that are form-fitting or show skin and either use the images for their own ill-intentioned plans or trade or sell them for more explicit photographs.
Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge is issuing today’s consumer alert to educate parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents and all adults of ways they could be unknowingly making their child a target of online sexual predators.
“No one wants one of the children in their life to be victims of pedophiles,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “It is time to face the shocking reality that these predators are harming our children and I encourage all adults to use caution and be responsible if pictures of children are posted on social media.”
Attorney General Rutledge released the following tips to all Arkansans to protect children from these online predators:
- Think twice about posting pictures of children online, especially photos of children that show a lot of skin.
- Remember that status updates, photos and videos posted on social networks are permanent and once the user posts, it is out of their control, and you do not know where it will end up. Consider purchasing cell phone monitoring services from your provider to monitor your child’s mobile devices.
- Just as children are taught to use strong privacy settings, adults should use the strictest settings that are available to prevent unwanted individuals from seeing images of their children. For example, on Facebook, one of the available privacy settings requires explicit permission from the account holder before he or she can be tagged in a post or picture.
- Monitor social media posts from friends to ensure they are not posting photos of your loved ones that could be stolen by people with sinister motives and end up in the hands of a child predator. Many social media platforms allow users to submit complaints regarding problematic posts and to request deletion of posts.
Attorney General Rutledge reports that these photos, along with social media posts and texts, are also often used to breakdown young children’s inhibitions to make them more comfortable with the inappropriate behavior. Adults must remember though that if a child comes into contact with an online predator, it is not the child’s fault – the child is the victim.
Arkansans can report child exploitation by calling the National CyberTipline, (800) 843-5678, or visit CyberTipline.com. To report child abuse, call the Arkansas State Police Child Abuse Hotline, (800) 482-5964, or, in the event of an emergency, dial 911 or a local law enforcement agency.
For more information about ways to stay safe online and other consumer-related issues or to file a consumer complaint, contact the Attorney General's office at (800) 482-8982 or email@example.com or visit ArkansasAG.gov or facebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.
Summer Travel Scams Ruin the FunWed, May 18, 2016
The school year is winding down, and many Arkansans are making summer vacation plans. Whether it is a trip to the beach, an exotic location, somewhere abroad, or one of Arkansas’s many lakes or State parks, Arkansans should keep a watchful eye to avoid falling victim to vacation scams.
Scam artists are using the Internet, including online advertising and social media to pitch free or deeply discounted travel deals. Many of these attempt to convince you that your friends and family members are taking advantage of this offer and you should too. Meanwhile, others are offering vacation rentals that look too good to be true. Travelers make the reservation and show up at the home or condo, only to find it was never up for rent and a scam artist stole photos and listing information to trick you out of hard earned cash.
It is possible to find a good travel deal or even win a vacation. However, if the phone call or email notifying you of the prize is unsolicited, it is probably a scam.
Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge issued today’s consumer alert to educate Arkansans about some common vacation scams.
“Sometimes people let their guard down when planning or while on vacation,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “But fraudsters are constantly looking for new ways to steal your money or financial information and know that you may be an easier victim while away from home. It is important for all Arkansans to remain diligent in protecting their private information, whether home or away.”
Attorney General Rutledge released the following list of common scams vacationers could encounter:
- Gasoline Scam: Someone approaches with a convincing story that they ran out of gas and money. They only need $40 to fill up the tank and may even offer to mail a check to repay you. The likelihood that the repayment will be received is slim. Either refuse to give the person money or pay for the fuel at the nearest service station with the person to ensure the money is spent as intended.
- Airport Taxi Service Scam: A “taxi driver” approaches and mentions he is off duty but trying to make some extra money and offers a ride, but he ends up taking the scenic route traveling miles out of the way to boost the fare. To avoid this scam, ensure the taxi driver is on duty, licensed and metered.
- Fake Front Desk Phone Call Scam: Scam artists call hotel rooms directly, often in the middle of the night while guests are disoriented by being woken up. They say there has been a computer glitch and they need to verify your credit card information. Hang up and go directly to the front desk to verify the call.
- Wi-Fi Hot Spot Scam: Crooks can create their own Wi-Fi spot and give it a similar name to an actual hotspot. Then these scammers can spy on everything the user does, from accessing bank accounts to making online purchases. Be sure to ask the hotel or restaurant what their Wi-Fi name is before logging on.
For more information on safe summer travel and other consumer-related issues or to file a consumer complaint, contact the Attorney General's office at (800) 482-8982 or firstname.lastname@example.org or visit ArkansasAG.gov or facebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.
Handling Court Proceedings During Active Military DutyWed, 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 email@example.com or visit ArkansasAG.gov or facebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or visit ArkansasAG.gov or facebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.
A Doggone ScamWed, 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 email@example.com or visit ArkansasAG.gov or facebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.