Attorney General Alerts
Keep Halloween Scares to Ghosts and GhoulsWed, Oct 28, 2015
Fall brings cooler temperatures, trees changing colors and Halloween. Many children and families enjoy the excitement and activities surrounding Halloween, including costume parties, haunted houses, hay rides and, of course, trick-or-treating. But sometimes the excitement of these activities can cause people to forget to be careful.
Attorney General Leslie Rutledge issued today’s consumer alert to remind families of precautions to take to have a safe, fun trick-or-treating outing.
“Boys and girls across Arkansas are ready for this Halloween weekend,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “But we all need to remember to take the necessary steps to keep them safe. This includes parents and guardians who have children ready to dress as their favorite super hero, cartoon character or princess but also anyone on the roadways on trick-or-treat night.”
Attorney General Rutledge released the following tips to parents to avoid unexpected and unnecessary Halloween scares:
- Select flame-resistant materials, masks, beards and wigs and try to avoid baggy sleeves and billowing skirts.
- Choose costumes with light or bright colors whenever possible, or trim a darker costume with reflective tape. Consider also having children carry a flashlight to make sure they can see and are visible to drivers.
- To avoid tripping and falling, choose costumes that fit well and do not drag on the ground.
- Make sure masks fit securely, have adequate ventilation and provide unobstructed views. Consider applying make-up to children’s faces instead of selecting loose-fitting masks.
- Swords, knives and other accessories should be made of soft and flexible materials.
- Take children to familiar neighborhoods and approach only homes with outside lighting.
- Remind children of everyday safety rules, such as not getting into cars or talking to strangers, watching both ways before crossing streets and crossing with the light when they are trick-or-treating.
- Adults should always accompany small children to caution them against running into streets and across lawns or driveways. Children should use sidewalks where available.
- Encourage children to wait until they get home to eat candy so that adults can inspect the goodies.
- Parents should throw away any treats that are not commercially wrapped or appear to be tampered with.
Attorney General Rutledge also reminds motorists to keep an eye out for children darting out from between parked cars or walking on roadways or curbs. Drivers should also enter and exit driveways and alleys carefully and watch attentively for children in dark clothing at dusk.
Service Members Protected from EvictionWed, Oct 21, 2015
The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) enacted in 2003 offers certain protections to members of the armed forces and their families so that service members can focus their full attention on their military responsibilities without adverse consequences for themselves or their families. The law also helps to ease financial burdens on service members and their families. One key section of the SCRA protects service members from eviction.
A landlord may not evict a service member or dependents from a home that is used as a residence during a time of military service without a court order. If an eviction action is filed, the court is required to temporarily stay, or delay, the proceedings for up to 90 days.
Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge issued today’s consumer alert to educate military service members about the eviction protections they are provided.
“Some service members are unfamiliar with the SCRA and these unique protections that are offered to them,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “I began the Military and Veterans Initiative earlier this year to reach out to these brave men and women who put their lives on the line for us to make sure they know their rights and the many resources that are available to them.”
Attorney General Rutledge provided the following facts and tips about eviction protections in the SCRA:
- Active duty members of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard are protected by the SCRA. Reservists with specific activation orders are also eligible.
- In order to qualify for this eviction protection, the service member’s rent may not exceed $3,329.84 per month. This ceiling is adjusted each year to match inflation.
- Eviction protections are offered regardless of whether the lease originated before or after the service member entered military service.
- Contact the nearest Armed Forces Legal Assistance Program office if you suspect SCRA rights were violated.
- If that office cannot resolve the complaint, it may choose to forward the complaint to the Department of Justice, which will review the matter to determine if action is appropriate.
- In emergency situations, such as pending eviction, contact the Civil Rights Division’s Housing and Civil Enforcement Section.
The SCRA also assists service members to terminate a lease or rental agreement without penalty. This protection applies to service members who are scheduled for deployment or re-assignment, as long as the lease began prior to active duty. In order to terminate the lease, the member must deliver written notice to the landlord with a copy of military orders. Oral notice is not sufficient.
Meanwhile, Arkansas has a law protecting all renters from excessive security deposits. Landlords who rent six or more dwellings cannot charge more than what would be two months’ rent. The deposit must also be returned within 60 days of moving, but landlords may deduct the cost of any damages or past-due rent.
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.
What’s in the Chip?Wed, Oct 14, 2015
Debit and credit cards are getting a new look. A computer chip is being added to both types of cards to make consumers’ information more secure.
All major credit card providers, including MasterCard, Visa, Discover and American Express, are currently sending Arkansans new cards to replace existing credit cards, and banks are issuing new debit cards.
Now, instead of swiping the card to complete the transaction, cards equipped with the computer chip will be inserted or “dipped” into a slot and left there until the transaction is completed. The buyer will be prompted to remove the card and to sign for the payment or enter a pin.
Attorney General Leslie Rutledge issued today’s consumer alert to educate Arkansans about this new credit card and the security benefits of this new technology.
“Computer hacks and data breaches are becoming more common as criminals target consumers and their credit,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “This new technology protects Arkansans’ personal information much better than the old magnetic strip credit cards. The computer chip 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 forge an Arkansan’s credit card.”
Attorney General Rutledge released the following tips for Arkansans to use during the transition to these new cards:
- When new credit or debit cards with the computer chip have been received, shred or destroy the old cards.
- Research the new cards and become familiar with the new transaction processing, which involves a new way to use your credit card at checkout. Financial institutions should have information on the technology on their websites.
- Continue to review your financial statements. This new technology creates a barrier for thieves, but no safeguard is perfect. The moment an error or unauthorized charge appears on a bank statement, the institution should be notified. Chip cards provide the same consumer protections offered by current cards, and the consumer will continue to have zero liability for fraudulent transactions.
Major credit card issuers created an Oct. 1 deadline for merchants to have the new card readers in working order, or be held liable for any fraudulent transactions occurring at their establishment. Automated fuel dispensers will have until 2017 to comply with these updates.
Electronic Transactions Association reports that an estimated 90 percent of counterfeit card fraud could be eliminated with chip card deployment in the United States. Meanwhile, the Arkansas Attorney General’s Office continues to investigate past data breaches related to payment processing systems and stands ready to protect Arkansans in any future cases.
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.