News/Events

Attorney General Alerts

Tax Refund Fraud

Tax Refund Fraud

Wed, Jan 30, 2019

Identity theft is a constant concern for Arkansans, but tax time brings additional anxiety over protecting personal information. Tax refund fraud occurs when a Social Security number is stolen and used to file a tax return and the resulting refund is claimed by the thief. Unfortunately, many people are unaware that this fraud has occurred until they attempt to file their own taxes and discover that a return has already been filed using their Social Security number.

“Tax-related fraud is the most common form of identity theft,” said Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “As we begin the process to file taxes, Arkansans must remain vigilant in protecting personal financial information to try to avoid falling victim to this type of scam.”

Attorney General Rutledge released the following steps to take if you fall victim to tax refund fraud:

  • File a fraud alert with one of the three national credit bureaus. The selected credit bureau is required to contact the other two bureaus, which will result in a fraud alert with all three bureaus. Once a fraud alert has been placed, if an application for credit is filed in your name and the prospective creditor checks your credit report, the prospective creditor will be alerted to the possibility of identity theft.
  • File an identity theft report with a local law enforcement agency.
  • Close any accounts that have been tampered with or opened fraudulently. Contact the company involved to dispute fraudulent transactions or accounts. Ask the company whether a fraud affidavit is required.
  • File an identity theft complaint with the Federal Trade Commission or call (877) IDTHEFT (438-4338).
  • Consider placing a security freeze on your credit report. A security freeze is designed to restrict access to your credit report and help prevent additional instances of identity theft.
  • Consider requesting an Identity Theft Passport provided by the Attorney General’s office.
  • Respond immediately to any IRS notification.
  • Continue to pay taxes and file tax returns, even if it must be done by paper.

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 consumer@arkansasag.gov or visit ArkansasAG.gov or facebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.

MORE
Don’t Fall for Calls about Fake Water, Electric or Gas Bills

Don’t Fall for Calls about Fake Water, Electric or Gas Bills

Wed, Jan 23, 2019

Scammers are recycling an old con to scare Arkansans into turning over prepaid debit cards or wiring money to pay off an unpaid utility bill. The Arkansas Attorney General’s office has received over 100 reports since the first of the year of con artists posing as utility company employees threatening to shut off utility services due to an unpaid bill.

“Arkansans should be skeptical of unsolicited calls in which the person is demanding immediate payment over the phone claiming that a water, electric or gas bill is late,” said Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “I urge Arkansans to hang up and reach out to the utility company directly using the number on their last bill or the company’s website to determine the status of their bill.”

Attorney General Rutledge released the following tips to ensure payment is sent to the utility company safely, securely and timely:

· Add the utility payment due date on a calendar when the bill is received.

· Drop off the payment at the utility office or an authorized payment location.

· Pay online on the utility company’s website with a credit card or call the company directly.

· Consider participating in an automated bank account draft system, if it is offered.

· Mail the payment to the company directly.

The scam involves Caller ID spoofing to make the name of the utility company display on the phone’s screen. Be cautious of unsolicited calls and consider hanging up and finding the company’s phone number from an independent source and calling them to confirm any outstanding balance.

Arkansans should notify the company if they have been contacted by one of these scammers. If Arkansans have turned over money to the scammer, file a complaint with the Attorney General.

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 consumer@arkansasag.gov or visit ArkansasAG.gov or facebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.

MORE
Shimming Shocks Chip-Enabled Credit Card Users

Shimming Shocks Chip-Enabled Credit Card Users

Wed, Jan 16, 2019

Scammers have found a way to duplicate chip-enabled credit cards, despite the extra safety design associated with the cards. Shimming is a new technique in which scammers insert a paper-thin device into the dip-and-wait slot on card readers. The “shim” is enabled with a microchip and flash storage to copy and save information from the credit or debit card.

“Credit and debit cards with the chip protect the user’s identity more than the magnetic strips,” said Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “The chip creates a unique transaction code that cannot be used again. Unfortunately, scammers continue to evolve their tactics and can now use the information they obtain from the shim to create a version of the card featuring a magnetic strip, which is still accepted by many retailers, especially online.”

Attorney General Rutledge released the following tips to avoid falling victim to shimming:

· Utilize contactless tap-and-go feature on your credit or debit cards instead of “dip and wait” card slots on ATMs and gas pumps.

· When utilizing a card at the gas pump, use a credit card instead of a debit card as credit cards are not tied to a bank account.

· When using an ATM, be sure to cover the keypad when entering the PIN.

· Avoid outdoor ATMs, and either see a bank teller, utilize an indoor ATM or ask for cash back on a purchase in order to obtain cash.

If consumers believe that their card number has been shimmed, contact the card issuer immediately, monitor accounts to watch for fraudulent charges and consider checking credit reports to watch for new inquiries, high balances or new accounts.

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 consumer@arkansasag.gov or visit ArkansasAG.gov or facebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.

MORE
Arkansans Risk Higher Costs with Refund Anticipation Loans

Arkansans Risk Higher Costs with Refund Anticipation Loans

Wed, Jan 9, 2019

Arkansans risk higher costs when using refund anticipation loans as a resource to plan for a tax refund this year. Some businesses are even offering refund anticipation loans (RALs) or refund anticipation checks (RACs) to offset the costs of larger purchases, but the interest rates offered may use more of the refund than expected.

“Refund anticipation loans and checks are just that, the anticipated amount of the tax refund,” said Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “A tax refund could be larger than anticipated, it could also be much smaller and leave consumers on the hook for the rest of the cost of the purchase. I encourage Arkansans to practice patience and wait for the government to issue any refund.”

Attorney General Rutledge released the following considerations before agreeing to have taxes prepared as part of a refund anticipation loan:

  • Free or low-cost options such as the online Internal Revenue Service (IRS)
  • Electronically-filed returns can be deposited in bank accounts in as few as eight days.
  • The IRS can also provide refunds by check or prepaid debit card.
  • Always get a written list of fees before entering into any agreement or requesting tax preparation assistance.

RALs are high-interest loans that must be repaid by the actual tax return proceeds, essentially borrowing the buyer’s own money. If the actual tax refund amount is less than estimated, the buyer is on the hook for the difference. RACs may be attractive to some consumers because businesses often waive tax preparation fees, but many Arkansans can obtain free tax preparation services.

The IRS provides a Free File program online that is a federal tax preparation and electronic-filing program for taxpayers who earn less than $66,000. Eligible consumers can go to IRS.gov and choose from multiple private companies that will file federal returns at no charge. Some Arkansans may also be eligible to receive free help through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program. Meanwhile, seniors can contact AARP to learn more about the tax preparation services it provides.

Arkansas’s “Refund Anticipation Loan Act” requires rates to be posted and clearly stated for all consumers to see, and, among other requirements, it requires a written statement to consumers explaining the loan or check-issuing process. Those offering Refund Anticipation Loans are prohibited from charging additional fees or requiring consumers to take out such loans in exchange for tax services.

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 consumer@arkansasag.gov or visit ArkansasAG.gov or facebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.

MORE
Be a Smart Consumer in 2019

Be a Smart Consumer in 2019

Wed, Jan 2, 2019

Many Arkansans are setting their new year’s resolutions for 2019, but scam artists also see the new year as an opportunity to take advantage of unsuspecting Arkansans. In the new year, scammers will continue to pose as someone they are not and try to steal personal and financial information, convince Arkansans they won a prize in exchange for a fee, trick consumers into believing they have debt that must be paid by gift cards, and many more variations on common scams.

“Arkansans must remain vigilant to keep their private information out of the hands of thieves,” said Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “Bad actors will continue to do bad deeds, but there are steps Arkansans can take to protect themselves and spot a potential scam before being victimized.”

Attorney General Rutledge released the following tips to spot a scam:

  • Don’t answer a call from an unknown number.
  • Wiring money is like giving cash away. There is no protection for consumers if the recipient is not who he or she claimed to be.
  • Never give out personal or banking information in response to a phone, email or mail inquiry. Contact the entity requesting the information directly through a different method to verify that it is a reputable company and to confirm the request.
  • When purchasing items or services online, make sure to research the seller and know his or her physical location.
  • If making a charitable contribution, give to an organization that has a strong history in providing relief. Instead of paying in cash, make a check or money order payable to the organization, not an individual.
  • Most importantly, if the offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Investigate the offer before accepting or paying any money.

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 consumer@arkansasag.gov or visit ArkansasAG.gov or facebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.

MORE
Gift Return Problems Can Put a Chill on the Holidays

Gift Return Problems Can Put a Chill on the Holidays

Wed, Dec 26, 2018

LITTLE ROCK – Returning or exchanging gifts received during the holidays can be stressful and difficult if consumers do not educate themselves on company return policies before making purchases.

“An unknown and complicated return policy can spoil some of the holiday fun and hurt your pocketbook,” said Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “Arkansans should learn return policies prior to attempting returns. Some retailers generously allow shoppers to make returns for any reason, which can lead consumers to wrongly believe they are entitled, by law, to a full refund or credit, but that is not always the case.”

Attorney General Rutledge released the following tips for gift recipients needing to make a return or exchange this holiday season:

· Ask the merchant about the store’s return or exchange policy.

· Keep all gift and purchase receipts.

· If considering returning, do not open the box or remove the tags.

· Some online retailers allow purchases to be returned in-store, while others require the item to be shipped back. Check with the merchant ahead of time.

As a gesture of goodwill, most companies offer in-store exchanges if the customer has the receipt and the item is promptly returned. However, others have an “all sales are final” policy for deeply discounted or clearance items and do not allow returns or exchanges. Return policies not only differ from store to store but can also differ for items purchased in-store and items bought online or by mail order.

Some retailers that allow returns may charge restocking fees for certain products. Consumers can sometimes pay a fee of 10 to 25 percent of the price of the item if the package is not in the condition in which it was purchased. Meanwhile, items like computer software, CDs, DVDs and Blue-Ray discs are not generally returnable after the seal has been broken.

Retailers are not required to accept at-will returns, and even in the case of a defective product, consumers may be required to contact the manufacturer. Sometimes retailers will require consumers to deal with the product manufacturer directly, rather than simply returning the item to the place of purchase.

The National Retail Federation estimates holiday spending to increase at least 4.3 percent to $720.89 billion this year.

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 consumer@arkansasag.gov or visit ArkansasAG.gov or facebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.

MORE
Contact Us
Sign Up For Attorney General Alerts