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Attorney General Alerts

Children Innocently Using Dangerous Smartphone Apps

Children Innocently Using Dangerous Smartphone Apps

Wed, Jul 24, 2019

Says, ‘allowing dangerous people into your home and their bedrooms

When inexperienced children innocently use smartphone applications, they often do not realize predators are also lurking on sites looking to exploit their innocence. In today’s digital era, many teens and children feel pressured to post everything about themselves online. Due to this potential exposure, parents must play an active role in ensuring children stay safe on the internet.

“If you don’t know who your children are texting and gaming with on their phones, you could be allowing dangerous people into your home and their bedrooms,” said Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “I urge parents and grandparents to be informed and take an active role in their children’s online presence so together we can protect our kids. As long as bad people target the children of Arkansas, my office will be here to go after those people.”

Smartphone apps that allow messaging and video-chat between kids and anonymous or fake users pose the greatest threat. Apps like Yubo, known as “Tinder for teens,” allow users to chat and exchange information with people they may only know by a couple of unverified pictures. Recently, an Ohio man was arrested for the sexual exploitation of an 11-year old enabled by the app.

Chatous is another potentially harmful app commonly used that instantly connects users with random strangers all over the world for a one-on-one video-chat. The random nature of the app lends itself to the possibility of exploitation.

Attorney General Rutledge has issued the following tips to help protect Arkansas families:

  • Parents should make a unique password, or know the password for their child’s social media sites. Consider making the passwords stronger by adding numbers or special characters. Having strong, unique passwords for each site helps prevent hackers from taking over social media accounts to send spam, scam friends or use information against the owner of the account.
  • Follow the “Front Page Rule,” which reminds social media users not to put anything on a social media site they would not want to see on the front page of a newspaper.
  • Assume that status updates, photos and videos posted on social networks are permanent. Even though a profile is deleted or information is removed on one site, older versions can continue to exist on other sites.
  • If your child would like to engage in face-to-face meetings with contacts found online, use caution as the other party may not be trustworthy and may not be who they say they are.
  • Do not respond to messages that are inappropriate. Encourage children to tell an adult if they ever encounter anything that makes them feel uncomfortable.
  • Always be aware of clues that a child is experiencing harmful or abusive content online. These include frequent seclusion, mood changes and lack of transparency, among others.
  • Parents and guardians should establish smartphone use policies for children and consider downloading a monitoring service app that allows them to view the child’s smartphone activity.

Recently the Department of Justice announced the arrest of 1,700 individuals in connection to online child exploitation. Parents should be aware of not just social media apps like Yubo or Chatous, but also apps like “calculator dot,” which allow children to hide pictures in secret files and to search the internet behind the facade of an innocent calculator.
For more information about ways to be safe online and other consumer-related issues, call the Arkansas Attorney General’s Office at (800) 482-8982 or visit
ArkansasAG.gov or facebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.

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Be Careful Posting Child Photos

Be Careful Posting Child Photos

Wed, Jul 10, 2019

Child predators see this time of year as an excellent opportunity to exploit pictures of children found on the internet. As the weather changes and the air gets warm, many families head out to enjoy the amenities that make the Natural State special. As families enjoy our state it is important to remember that sharing pictures and videos of family this summer while being seemingly innocent, can have unintended and harmful side effects.

It is common for ill-intending users of social media to search through popular hashtags such as #bathtime and #poolside to find pictures of children in order to sell or trade with others. It is important that parents be wary of posting content featuring children during activities such as swimming, sleepovers, lake days and tanning, among others.

“No Arkansans intend to subject their children to exploitation through the things they post online, but often predators will prowl social media sites in search of pictures featuring children in swimsuits, athletic gear or wearing other formfitting and revealing clothes,” said Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “It is also a good idea to ask for consent from a child’s parent or guardian before including him/her in content with your child. Protection of our children is a community-wide responsibility.”

Attorney General Rutledge has issued the following tips to follow as you use social media this summer:

  • 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. Once the user posts, it is out of his/her control and you do not know where it will end up. Consider purchasing cell phone monitoring services from a provider to monitor children’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 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.

Whether enjoying a swim in Lake Ft. Smith, a hike at Petit Jean or just an afternoon with kids at a fair, it is important to remember that the safety of our children is everyone’s responsibility. We help by doing our part to protect our future by protecting our children.

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 other consumer-related issues or to file a consumer complaint, contact the Attorney General's office at (800) 482-8982 or consumer@arkansasag.gov or visit ArkansasAG.gov or facebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.

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Protecting the Financial Interests of Service Members

ATTORNEY GENERAL ALERT: Protecting the Financial Interests of Service Members

Wed, Jul 3, 2019

LITTLE ROCK – While active duty service members protect us from Arkansas to the far corners of the world, the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) of 2003 protects their interests back home. Every day, our military members wake up thousands of miles away from their homes and work hard fighting for our liberty. The SCRA ensures that our American heroes will be protected from eviction from those very homes during their absence, in addition to providing protection on issues ranging from civil court postponements to interest rate caps.

“By nature, a service member’s duty to country prevents them from being involved in many interests they hold back home,” said Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “The SCRA protects our heroes them from issues related to and during a deployment or training. Sometimes it is not possible for them to appear for a civil court case, for instance, and the SCRA provides protections in that scenario. The Act is a way to recognize and thank military members for their constant sacrifice at home for the greater good.”

Attorney General Rutledge released the following tips as part of Military Consumer Protection Month to help service members who need to take advantage of the many protections provided under the SCRA:

The SCRA limits mortgage interest rates to 6 percent during military service and up to one year after service ends. Unless a court intervenes, it prevents a mortgage creditor from selling, foreclosing or seizing an active-duty service member’s mortgaged property during service and up to one year after military service terminates. The SCRA also provides protection requiring a judge to stay mortgage proceedings if a service member shows that military service has affected his or her ability to comply with mortgage obligations.

Many service members would benefit from mortgage relief measures, and the SCRA underscores this by prohibiting a mortgage servicer from requiring a service member to be delinquent on payments in order to qualify for loss mitigation relief if he or she would otherwise qualify.

The first-of-its-kind “Military and Veterans Initiative” launched by Attorney General Rutledge in 2015 focuses on protecting service members. It remains a key part of protecting service members from any consumer-related issues and works in collaboration with other programs to protect those who protect us.

For more information and tips on how to avoid a scam, call the Arkansas Attorney General’s Office at (800) 482-8982 or visit ArkansasAG.gov or facebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.

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Buyers Beware of Flood-Damaged Vehicles

Buyers Beware of Flood-Damaged Vehicles

Wed, Jun 26, 2019

LITTLE ROCK – Flood waters across Arkansas and surrounding states have receded with damaged homes, businesses, and vehicles remaining, but the potential for further consumer harm still exist. Consumers should use caution if they are considering purchasing a vehicle in the coming months as bad actors may be interested in lining their own pockets by selling water-damaged vehicles without disclosing the hidden damage.

“Arkansas law has safeguards in place to protect consumers from unscrupulous individuals and car dealerships,” said Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “However, many of these transactions happen as part of private sales.”

Attorney General Rutledge released the following tips for Arkansans to consider before purchasing a new or used vehicle that could have been involved in flooding.

Consumers should review a vehicle’s title for any flood damage reports, especially if it was last titled outside the state. 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.

Consumers who believe they have been sold a flood-damaged item that was not advertised as such should file a complaint with the Attorney General’s Office.

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.

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Bad Actors Target Flood Victims

Bad Actors Target Flood Victims

Wed, Jun 19, 2019

Following the historic floods of the past few weeks, there is a lot of work to be done as Arkansans return home, but scam artists may be posing as contractors to steal quick cash from victims.

“Unscrupulous contractors may try to take advantage of hard-working Arkansans, especially during or after a disaster when people may seem vulnerable and in need,” said Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “Arkansans facing home repairs should research contractors and do their homework before making a payment and scheduling work to be done.”

Attorney General Rutledge issued the following tips for flood victims who are ready to begin repairs to their property:

  • Beware of door-to-door solicitors selling home-repair work. To find someone reputable, ask friends or family who have recently used a home-repair contractor or professional.
  • Avoid any home-repair solicitor who asks for an upfront payment or who will not provide you with a detailed written contract with name and address of the contractor as well as the grade, quality, name brand and quantity of any materials to be used.
  • Get at least three written estimates. A reputable contractor or professional will never try to pressure potential customers.
  • Check with the Attorney General’s Office, the Better Business Bureau or the Arkansas Contractors’ Licensing Board to find out if the company has a complaint history.
  • Never make the final payment until you have had an opportunity to inspect and approve the work.
  • Remember that all contracts resulting from a home-solicitation sale generally must include a buyer’s right to cancel within three (3) business days after the contract is signed.
  • Make sure all warranties and guarantees are in writing.

The Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) administers the National Flood Insurance Program, and provides answers to specific questions regarding that program at FloodSmart.gov/faqs.

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.

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Be on the Lookout for Price Gouging

Be on the Lookout for Price Gouging

Thu, Jun 13, 2019

Says, ‘will hold any business accountable that takes advantage of flood victims’

As Arkansans continue to recover from the recent historic flooding, some businesses may try to take advantage of consumers by raising prices beyond legal limits. Arkansas’s price-gouging law prohibits businesses from charging more than 10 percent above the pre-disaster price of goods or services.

“I will hold any business accountable that takes advantage of flood victims by illegally overcharging for needed supplies,” said Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “Businesses must follow the law and find a balance between supply and demand when pricing goods and services following a declared state of emergency.”

Attorney General Rutledge released the following tips to avoid price gouging:

  • Shop around before purchasing goods or services, especially for post-disaster home repairs.
  • Avoid “drive-by” quotes from door-to-door solicitors.
  • When possible, deal with established, reputable businesses in the community.
  • Always get estimates and price quotes in writing.

The price-gouging law is triggered whenever a state of emergency is declared by federal, State or local governments. The ban on price gouging remains in effect for at least 30 days on goods or services related to the emergency (e.g., medical supplies, storage services, motor fuel, etc.) and can be extended another 30 days by the local governing body, if needed. For home repair and cleanup services, the law remains in effect for 180 days. The scope of the law is broad and is intended to cover anything that may be needed in the event of a state of emergency.

While the law sets a general 10 percent cap on price increases during an emergency, businesses may lawfully charge a higher price if they can establish that the higher price is directly attributable to additional costs incurred by the retailer, by its supplier, or as the result of additional costs for labor or materials used to provide the goods or service. In such a limited situation, the business may charge no more than 10 percent above the total of the cost to the business, in addition to the markup which would customarily be applied by the business for the goods or service.

For more information about other common scams and consumer-related issues, please call the Arkansas Attorney General’s office at (800) 482-8982 or visit ArkansasAG.gov or facebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.

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