Attorney General Alerts
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.
Fraudsters Scamming Companies Out of BillionsWed, 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 firstname.lastname@example.org or visit ArkansasAG.gov or facebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.
Cell Phone Contracts and Military DeploymentsWed, 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 email@example.com or visit ArkansasAG.gov or facebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.
Vehicle Buyers Beware of Storm DamageWed, 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 firstname.lastname@example.org or visit ArkansasAG.gov or facebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.
Scammers Take Advantage of Credit Card Chip ConfusionWed, Mar 30, 2016
Scammers have found a new way to target Arkansans while retailers and banks continue to make the switch from magnetic stripe credit and debit cards to the chip cards.
The confusion surrounding this transition has made a prime environment for con artists. It has been reported that scammers will pose as credit card companies and contact consumers through email, informing them that a new card is ready but they need to update account information before the card can be sent.
If a consumer opens the link and enters his or her personal financial information, it will likely be taken and used to commit fraud. In some cases, the link itself could install malware on the device and then monitor online activities and steal passwords, log-in information or account numbers.
Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge issued today’s consumer alert to warn Arkansans of this scam.
“The new chip cards provide a better layer of protection for consumers as credit and debit transactions are processed,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “But scam artists are now preying on consumers still waiting to receive their new cards in the mail. It is important that Arkansans be aware of this scam and remain skeptical when asked to provide any potentially sensitive information.”
Attorney General Rutledge released the following tips to minimize the risk of falling victim to this scam:
- Do not respond to any emails or phone calls requesting a credit card number or to update personal information. This information does not need to be provided before a new card is issued.
- Hang up and contact the credit card company directly to confirm if the call is legitimate if you are asked to update personal information.
- Do not open an email link without verifying the link’s authenticity. If you mistakenly open the link, do not supply any information. Only provide information through a company website if you have typed in the web address yourself.
- Look for the “lock” icon on the browser’s status bar and “https” in the URL address to be sure information is secure during transmission.
The chip that is embedded in these debit and credit cards provides a helpful way to prevent credit card fraud. The technology 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 to forge an Arkansan’s credit card. Electronic Transactions Association reports that an estimated 90 percent of counterfeit card fraud could be eliminated by using the chip cards.
If you believe you have been a victim of identity theft, file a fraud alert with one of the three national credit bureaus, close any accounts that have been tampered with or opened fraudulently, consider placing a security freeze on your credit report, file an identity theft report with local law enforcement and a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission and consider requesting an Identity Theft Passport provided by the Attorney General’s office.
For more information about credit cards or 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.
Insurance Protections for Service MembersWed, Mar 23, 2016
Insurance can be confusing to navigate. However, the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) provides some protections for military service members navigating health and life insurance.
Military members given active duty orders are automatically transferred to the military health care plan called TRICARE and often cancel their previous coverage. But under the SCRA, there is a 120-day window to request reinstatement after returning from active duty. In most instances the insurance can be reinstated without loss of benefits, waiting periods or penalties.
Life insurance is also protected under the SCRA. The Servicemembers Group Life Insurance program provides some coverage, but supplemental coverage by private providers may also be purchased. Private providers cannot terminate coverage or require payment of additional premiums for military service members, except for increases in premiums based on the individual’s age in individual term insurance. An insurer also cannot restrict coverage for any activity required by military service. Military members are protected against lapse, termination and forfeiture for nonpayment during service and for two additional years thereafter.
Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge released today’s consumer alert to educate active duty service members and their families about these protections under the SCRA.
“The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act takes great strides in protecting those men and women who put their lives on the line for our freedom,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “This law provides protections against financial hardships for active duty military service members, including reduced interest rates on loans, eviction prevention, lease cancellation and more. It is important that these brave men and women know their rights and the many resources that are available to them.”
Attorney General Rutledge released the following tips for military service members to consider when shopping for insurance:
- Shop around. Get quotes from several companies to ensure a fair price, but make sure to compare offers at similar coverage levels. The price will increase as more options and benefits are added to a policy.
- Ask each company how they handle issues that could come up during a deployment.
- Research each company to make sure they are financially strong and provide a level of customer service that is comfortable for you.
The SCRA also allows military service members who are called to active duty to suspend any professional liability insurance by a written request to the insurance carrier. Premiums are not paid during active duty, and the service member has 30 days to request reinstatement.
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.