Make Sure a Scam Does Not Ruin Your WeddingThu, May 28, 2015
Summer weddings are common in Arkansas, and brides and grooms are currently making final preparations. However, couples need to take proper precautions to avoid having their big day turn into a big pay day for con artists posing as vendors.
Reports of these types of scams have surfaced across the country. Recently, a Colorado couple purchased their honeymoon online, only to have their plans cancelled when the booking company disappeared. More than 80 Massachusetts couples were victims of a videographer who never provided their video footage. Another scammer victimized 73 Missouri couples promising them a renovated historic venue for their wedding but he did not acquire the proper permits to update the property, then kept the couples’ money.
Attorney General Leslie Rutledge issued today’s consumer alert to help Arkansas consumers avoid being taken advantage of by wedding scammers.
“A wedding day is a cause for celebration,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “But consumers need to know about the potential of wedding vendor fraud. A photographer, baker or florist could take the order and money, then never deliver services.”
Attorney General Rutledge released the following tips for brides, grooms and families who are booking wedding vendors to ensure they are working with reputable and experienced merchants:
- Research and compare vendors, get multiple estimates and check references for all.
- Pay with a credit card because it is a more secure form of payment than cash or check.
- Avoid paying in full before receiving services.
- Get everything in writing and make sure contracts include dates, times, promised services, details, cancellation charges and overtime charges.
- Establish a timeline of when the vendor is expected to show up and perform the job.
- Stay in contact with vendors throughout the planning process.
- Consider consulting with a professional, reputable wedding planner.
- Consider purchasing wedding insurance that would mitigate problems if a vendor does not show up and cover cancellations due to weather or sickness.
- Read each contract in full and look for hidden costs like cake cutting, corking fees, additional taxes and gratuities, and employee overtime.
Couples who paid for a service on a credit card and are victims of a wedding scam are advised to file a fraud dispute with the credit card company. The company should investigate the claims and could retrieve the lost money. Fraud victims should also file complaints with the Attorney General’s Office and the Better Business Bureau.
For more information on tips to avoid getting scammed, as well as other consumer related issues, call the Arkansas Attorney General’s Office at (800) 482-8982 or visit ArkansasAG.gov or facebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.
Car Sellers BewareFri, May 22, 2015
Reports are increasing of a scam targeting the private, online sale of vehicles. The National Insurance Crime Bureau is warning consumers of a scheme targeting people selling vehicles on the popular online marketplace, Craigslist. Law enforcement has reported nearly 100 instances of a phony bank check being used to pay for vehicles across the country.
Attorney General Leslie Rutledge issued today’s consumer alert to warn Arkansans about the scam that leaves sellers liable for money still owed on cars, while criminals get away with vehicles.
“These con artists can print counterfeit checks that look real,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “Sellers should be cautious because some of these checks can even fool bank tellers. The best thing to do is travel to the buyer’s bank to ensure the check is valid and that sufficient funds are available to complete the purchase.”
Attorney General Rutledge released the following tips for consumers who are selling vehicles on their own:
- Insist on speaking to serious buyers over the phone in order to gauge if they are genuinely interested in the car.
- Consider only selling to local buyers.
- Do not give out your home address.
- Schedule test drives in the middle of the day and in public places. Do not meet with an unknown buyer alone.
- Once you have settled on a price, meet the buyer at his or her bank to complete the transaction.
- Beware if the buyer recommends a specific escrow service, and do your research to make sure it is a legitimate company by checking with the Arkansas Insurance Department License Division. (Kelly Blue Book does not endorse any escrow services.)
- Keep documents or paper records of everything and when exchanging paperwork, redact all of your personal information.
- Never sign over a title until you have the money in hand.
Attorney General Rutledge also encourages sellers to be cautious of overpayment scams and to avoid payment plans. In overpayment scams, the buyer says that someone else owes him or her an amount that is higher than the agreed-upon selling price. The buyer wants the third-party to pay the seller directly, have the seller keep his or her share, then turn over the car and price difference. This scam can also involve a false check, which would leave the seller with even less money.
Victims of this type of fraud should go back to the website where they placed the ad and alert the site’s administrator of the scam, report the incident with local law enforcement, notify the Attorney General’s Office and file a complaint with the Internet Crime Complaint Center.
For more information on tips to be safe online and avoid getting scammed, as well as other consumer related issues, contact the Arkansas Attorney General’s Office at ArkansasAG.gov or (800) 482-8982 or on Facebook at facebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.
Don’t Get Over Your Head in Flood DamageFri, May 15, 2015
Weekend storms and heavy rainfall caused damage and destruction across Arkansas. An EF2 tornado touched down in Nashville Sunday night killing two and destroying structures in its path. Meanwhile, high water is creating another set of problems for some Arkansans, with more rain set to hit the State this weekend.
Attorney General Leslie Rutledge issued today’s consumer alert to educate Arkansans about the steps to take if flood waters reach their home.
“Many of our friends and neighbors are cleaning up and are realizing the full scope of destruction,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “Rivers across Arkansas are above flood levels, and if that water reaches structures, it will cause major damage. Consumers need to take the appropriate steps to recover their property and be aware of con artists who will attempt to take advantage during this difficult time.”
On Monday, Gov. Asa Hutchinson declared 10 counties disaster areas, including Franklin, Garland, Howard, Izard, Johnson, Montgomery, Newton, Pike, Pope and Searcy counties. This allows the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management to provide resources and seek federal assistance for residents of those counties.
Attorney General Rutledge released the following tips for consumers who are cleaning up water damage in their home:
- Call your insurance agent. If they cover the damage, your agent should have an adjuster contact you.
- Make a list of the damage and take photographs or video as you clean. This documentation will be needed for insurance claims, applications for disaster assistance and income tax deductions.
- Clear away any mud and clean and disinfect every surface.
- Check with the Attorney General’s Office and the Better Business Bureau before hiring anyone to clean up or make repairs.
- Get multiple estimates and compare prices.
- Turn off all electrical and heating and cooling systems to be inspected and repaired or cleaned by a qualified or licensed contractor.
- Appliances and electronics should be professionally cleaned and serviced to prevent electrocution.
- Never pay in advance for any repair service, and inspect the completed project before making the final payment.
- Communicate with your insurance company directly rather than authorizing a contractor to negotiate with the company.
Attorney General Rutledge also warns consumers to be on the lookout for flood damaged cars re-entering the market.
“Scammers can make cosmetic repairs to flood-damaged vehicles,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “Consumers should inspect all vehicles for water stains and mildew in the vents and behind the dashboard, look under the hood for signs of oxidation and have a certified mechanic look over the vehicle before it is purchased.”
Carfax reports that as many as 5,000 flooded cars were on the market in Arkansas prior to this week’s storms and that number is expected to increase. A vehicle’s title should reflect any flood damage, and Arkansas law requires dealerships 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 private sale because, although the seller is required to notify the buyer of any flood damage, a posted disclosure is not mandatory.
For more information on tips to avoid home repair scams and other consumer related issues, contact the Arkansas Attorney General’s Office at (800) 482-8982.
Your Identity is Stolen. Now What?Thu, May 7, 2015
Identity thieves can hit at any time, wrecking your financial integrity. According to the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) Consumer Sentinel Network, nearly 2,500 Arkansans filed ID theft complaints in 2014, ranking the Natural State 15th in victims of identity theft.
Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge issued today’s consumer alert to educate consumers on the steps they should take to restore their credit if their identity is stolen.
“My office is committed to helping victims of identity theft,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “We have counselors available to guide consumers through the process of recovering their credit, and offer ID Theft Passports to assist victims in re-establishing their good names.”
Attorney General Rutledge released the following tips for those who have fallen victim to ID thieves:
- File a fraud alert with one of the three national credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian or TransUnion.
- File a police report with your local law enforcement and get a copy of the report as soon as it is available.
- Get a copy of an identity theft booklet, which provides step-by-step instructions for dealing with identity thieves, including affidavits and forms for your financial institutions.
- File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.
- Cancel any accounts you believe have been compromised or have been opened fraudulently.
- Consider placing a security freeze on your credit report to restrict access and help prevent additional instances of identity theft.
- Consider applying for an ID Theft Passport from the Attorney General’s Office.
Although credit card fraud is one of the most talked about forms of identity theft benefits fraud from government documents is more prevalent in Arkansas, making up more than a quarter of ID theft types, according to the FTC.
Many consumers are rightfully concerned about the safety of their personal and financial information and want to prevent fraud and identity theft. Attorney General Rutledge encourages Arkansans to never give their personal information over the phone or via email, to use strong passwords on all online accounts and to be diligent in reviewing all types of financial statements.
Committing identity theft in Arkansas is a felony and comes with a sentence that could include incarceration, fines up to $25,000 and restitution. The Arkansas Administrative Office of the Courts reported 150 ID theft convictions in 2014.
For more information on identity theft, to apply for an ID Theft Passport or other consumer related issues, contact the Arkansas Attorney General's Office at (800) 482-8982.
Be Cautious When Helping With International DisastersThu, Apr 30, 2015
recent report in AtlasofGiving.com ranks Arkansas as one of the top 10 states for charitable giving in 2014, and many Arkansans will continue that trend by helping those in Nepal who are suffering in the aftermath of last Saturday’s devastating earthquake.
Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge issued today’s consumer alert to encourage Arkansans who are looking for ways to help the Himalayan region to be cautious when donating to relief efforts.
“Scammers often prey on charitable people,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “Con artists exploit our generosity with new versions of old schemes, but Arkansans should arm themselves with the knowledge to tell a reputable nonprofit organization from a charity scam.”
To make sure that your donation fulfills its intended purpose, Attorney General Rutledge suggests taking the following steps before donating:
- If you receive a phone or door-to-door solicitation for donations, don’t immediately get out your checkbook or credit card. High-pressure sales tactics are a red flag that you may be dealing with an unscrupulous charity.
- Do your research. Get the organization’s name, address, website and phone number, or give directly to a known nonprofit of your choice. Make sure the nonprofit organization is registered with the Arkansas Attorney General’s Office.
- Use GuideStar.org to compare nonprofit organizations and to get more information.
- Ask the organization how it will spend your donation.
- Watch out for similar but different organization names as some con artists will use names like those of existing, reputable nonprofits in order to trick consumers.
- Do not give out financial or personal information over the phone or through email to an unknown entity. This information could fall into the wrong hands, or the scammers could use it to steal your money or identity.
- Never send cash. Make check or credit card payments for increased security and tax purposes.
- If you wish to donate through a text message, verify the organization’s number before doing so.
The magnitude 7.8 earthquake that did wide-ranging damage especially in the capital city of Kathmandu is the worst to hit the country in 80 years. The death toll is reported to be over 5,000 people with more than 9,200 injured.
For more information on charitable scams, to check the status of a specific nonprofit organization, or to look into an organization’s financial reports, contact the Arkansas Attorney General’s Office Public Protection Division at (800) 482-8982.
Disposing of Unused or Expired Prescription MedicationsThu, Apr 23, 2015
Many Arkansans have unused or expired prescription medications because they are unsure of how to properly dispose of them.
Common disposal mistakes include flushing medication down the toilet, crushing pills or throwing them in the trash. All of these methods pose serious health and safety hazards. The safest disposal method is to give the medication to law enforcement at Arkansas’s Take Back Day on Saturday, April 25.
More than 130 police stations and community centers across the State are providing a safe disposal option with secure drop boxes or staffing stations for Arkansans to discard unwanted and expired medication with no questions asked. The medications will be taken to an off-site location and disposed of safely by law enforcement.
Attorney General Leslie Rutledge issued today’s consumer alert to educate Arkansans about the dangers of unused prescription drugs and proper prescription drug disposal methods available to clear out their medicine cabinets and drawers.
“Take Back Day is an important initiative to make our communities safer,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “This innovative program not only prevents children from getting their hands on medication that could be harmful and even deadly, but also prevents the chemicals from contaminating waterways and soil if disposed of improperly.”
Medications can be very harmful, even if expired, because they are still chemically active. If the prescription drugs are merely left in medicine cabinets or thrown away, they can be accessed or abused by children or adults, possibly resulting in hospitalization or death.
According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, nearly 5 million pounds of prescription medications have been taken out of circulation through Take Back events nationally including over sixty-two tons of that amount were medications disposed of through Arkansas’s Take Back events, which began in 2010.
This year’s event is sponsored by the Attorney General’s Office, the office of the Arkansas Drug Director, both Arkansas United States Attorney’s Offices, the Arkansas National Guard, Arkansas Rotary Clubs, Arkansas Department of Health and 170 agencies that make up the Arkansas Prescription Drug Coalition.
A complete list of collection sites for the 2015 Take Back Day, as well as permanent, year-round collection sites, is available at artakeback.org. Take Back sites will be open for collections from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, April 25. Law enforcement officials at the sites will be collecting prescription medicines, over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, pet medicines, medicated ointments and lotions, inhalers, liquid medicines in glass or leak-proof containers, and medicine samples.
For consumer-related questions, contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division at (800) 482-8982.