Attorney General Alerts
Attorney General Alert: Fake Charities Disguised As Helping Military and VeteransThu, Jul 16, 2020
LITTLE ROCK – It is important to be vigilant and do your homework when donating to a new charity for the first time. Scammers have been stealing money from Arkansans by posing as veterans’ charities and often requesting charitable donations. Even though these bad actors can leave a bad taste in anyone’s mouth, it is important to note that there are still many well intentioned military and veterans charities across Arkansas and the country doing tireless work for our nation’s heroes.
“Arkansas is just one big small town and the fantastic people of our state have a giving spirit, especially when it comes to our men and women in uniform,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “But, I want to make sure Arkansans’ generosity is not taken for granted by con artists looking to make a quick buck posing as a fake military or veteran’s charity.”
Attorney General Rutledge released the following tips to help consumers ensure an organization’s legitimacy before giving money:
- Ask questions before giving. Only give when comfortable that the donation will support a trustworthy organization or activity. Refuse high-pressure appeals. Legitimate charities will not rush a donation.
- Ask for written information or research the organization online. A legitimate charity will send information that provides the organization’s mission and how the donation will be used, along with proof that the contribution is tax deductible.
- Call the charity directly. To avoid falling victim to sham solicitors, personally contact the charity before giving a donation by email, to the person knocking at the front door or to a telephone solicitor to ensure it is not a scam.
- Do not send cash. For security and tax records, make donations by check or credit card.
- Search the Arkansas Charities Database for more information on charities in Arkansas, including those benefiting service members and their families.
The FTC has released a video to highlight tips on how to research charities on giving wisely to veterans organizations.
In 2015, Rutledge launched the first-ever Military and Veterans Initiative at the Attorney General’s office to assist active duty military service members, reservists, veterans and their families with consumer-related issues and many other collaborative efforts.
Tax Deadline is Upon UsFri, Jul 10, 2020
Due to COVID-19, the delayed deadline to file state and federal taxes is quickly approaching. Arkansans who have not filed to pay their taxes still have until July 15.
“This year, the date might have changed, but the responsibility remains – tax time has arrived,” said Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “Our communities have dealt with many difficult situations for a majority of the year when it comes to making ends meet and I want Arkansans to know their options and filing your taxes shouldn’t be a burden.”
Taxpayers have the ability to file and pay their taxes safely online through IRS.gov in order to avoid the backlog of mail that may have developed due to previous closures in response to the pandemic. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) offers taxpayers their Interactive Tax Assistant (ITA) system as a resource to learn more and answer frequently asked questions while filing taxes online.
Attorney General Rutledge has provided these tips for Arkansans still working on filing their federal and state taxes this year:
- Taxpayers who need additional time to file beyond the July 15 deadline can request a filing extension to October 15, but this must be done by July 15. Then they must file Form 4868 through their tax professional, tax software, or using the Free File link on IRS.gov.
- Arkansas taxpayers who still owe 2019 income tax, as well as estimated tax for 2020, must make two separate payments on or before July 15, 2020; One for their 2019 income tax owed and one for their 2020 estimated tax payments.
- Members of the military qualify for an additional extension of at least 180 days to file and pay taxes if either of the following situations apply: they serve in a combat zone, have qualifying service outside a combat zone, or they serve on deployment outside the United States away from their permanent duty station while participating in a contingency operation.
- AARP Foundation Tax Aide program offers free assistance to Arkansas seniors filing their taxes online or by calling 888-OUR-AARP (888-687-2277).
- Tax help is available 24 hours a day and 7 days a week on IRS.gov.
- Information for filing state taxes can be found online on dfa.arkansas.gov/income-tax or by calling (501) 682-1100
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 OAG@ArkansasAG.gov or visit ArkansasAG.gov or Facebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.
ATTORNEY GENERAL ALERT: Scam Artists Pose as Contact Tracers to Steal Arkansans’ IdentitiesWed, Jul 8, 2020
LITTLE ROCK – Scam artists have found an opportunity by using the important task of contact tracing to steal money and the identity of Arkansans. In trying to stop the spread of COVID-19, the Arkansas Department of Health is using contact tracing to identify people who have been in contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. One way bad actors are impersonating contact tracers is by sending text messages containing a link and claiming that by clicking on the link, the recipient will be contacted about a positive test, but in actuality, the link gives the scam artist direct access to the phone holder’s personal information.
“Con artists are impersonating contact tracers in order to steal your money and your identity,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “The Arkansas Department of Health will not ask for your social security information or demand a payment when reaching out about contact with positive cases of COVID-19.”
When a patient is confirmed to have COVID-19, the Arkansas Health Department provides staff to assist the patient with identifying all individuals with whom they made close contact during the 48-hours preceding the positive COVID-19 test. Those identified by the patient through the contact tracing process are then notified by public health staff of the positive case, are asked to enroll in the Department of Health’s Situational Awareness Response Assistance (SARA) system for email updates, and they are asked to quarantine.
Attorney General Rutledge released the following tips to avoid falling victim to the contact tracing scam:
- Contact tracing will not cost money. Avoid giving personal bank account information over the phone or buying gift cards to pay scam artists for fake contact tracing attempts;
- Avoid clicking on links in emails and text messages unless you signed up to receive the messages;
- If you receive an unsolicited email or text message from a potential contact tracer, verify its authenticity by contacting the Arkansas Department of Health at ADH.CoronaVirus@arkansas.gov or call (800) 803-7847.
To file a complaint about potential contact tracing scams reach out to the Attorney General’s office at (800) 482-8982, email email@example.com or visit ArkansasAG.gov. Consumers are encouraged to visit the Arkansas Department of Health's COVID-19 Contact Tracing program website for additional information about contact tracing.
Impostors are Working Hard to Avoid Work by Stealing Arkansans’ Unemployment BenefitsThu, Jul 2, 2020
LITTLE ROCK – States have had to adapt quickly to the keep their residents safe from COVID-19 and worked hard to ensure economic resources are easily available. In recent weeks, the Arkansas Attorney General’s Office has received complaints from Arkansans receiving notices that they had applied for unemployment benefits when they had not in fact applied for benefits. In other cases, consumers have received the unemployment funds and are then contacted by the scam artist claiming that a mistake has occurred and asking the consumer to forward the proceeds to them.
“My office has received almost 200 complaints from Arkansans who have had their personal information used to fraudulently apply for unemployment by scam artists,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “We have been working with the Arkansas Department of Workforce Services and financial institutions in order to assist consumers in stopping unlawful payments and preventing additional identity theft.”
The unemployment application process is typically an in-person application process, but the COVID-19 pandemic and the need for social distancing has created a new online procedure that requires only a name, date of birth, social security number, and employer verification. This abbreviated procedure, while safer and more simple for applicants, has also meant that scam artists who have fraudulently obtained this personal information on consumers from prior data breaches and identity theft can apply for unemployment benefits on unwary consumers’ behalves.
Attorney General Rutledge advises consumers who suspect that their identity has been used to apply for unemployment benefits should immediately:
- File a police report and then contact the Arkansas Department of Workforce Services’ fraud hotline at 501-682-1058.
- Report the fraud to your employer.
- Obtain new copies of their credit reports from the three major credit reporting agencies (i.e., Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian) to confirm that no additional lines of credit have been opened in his or her name and consider requesting a fraud alert or a security freeze in order to prevent additional fraudulent activity.
- If a victim of financial identity theft, apply for an identity theft passport with the Arkansas Attorney General’s Office by submitting a copy of a police report and other relevant information. Identity theft passports are designed to assist consumers in proving their true identities.
Consumers are advised that if you receive funds that you did not apply for and that you were not expecting, do not accept them. Instead, report the matter to the Arkansas Department of Workforce Services at 501-682-1058 and to local law enforcement. Even if you did not request the funds, accepting such funds as part of an unemployment scam is unlawful.
ATTORNEY GENERAL ALERT: Businesses Target Hispanic Communities to Fraudulently Sell COVID-19 TreatmentsWed, Jun 24, 2020
LITTLE ROCK – As the pandemic continues and Arkansans attempt to get back on their feet, scam artists see opportunity uncertainty the virus has caused. A new scam has been identified by the Attorney General Leslie Rutledge’s Office seeking to target the Hispanic population in Arkansas where businesses are charging exorbitant amounts of money for COVID-19 tests and for “immunity boosts” that will prevent or treat COVID-19, with no credible proof from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Centers for Disease Control (CDC) or the Arkansas Health Department.
“Snake oil salesmen are taking advantage of vulnerable Arkansans by using fear to sell their expensive immunity boosts with some over $3,000,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “When a vaccine is approved by the federal government, the information will be shared far and wide, but until then Arkansans are urged to avoid anyone peddling fake, expensive COVID-19 cures.”
Rutledge is currently investigating Arkansas companies, including chiropractic and medical practices, that are peddling preventatives, treatments and cures for COVID-19 that are not approved by the FDA. These are often advertised as “immunity boosting” treatments. Unfortunately, there are currently no cures, treatments, lotions, or potions to treat COVID-19.
Attorney General Rutledge has offered the following tips for consumers about fraudulent COVID-19 cures and treatments.
- Avoid paying exorbitant fees for COVID-19 tests. Instead, visit the Arkansas Department of Health’s website to find locations of mass testing and clinics offering COVID-19 tests at no cost to consumers.
- Be cautious of health providers who claim they can cure, prevent, or lessen the effects of COVID-19 while charging high fees for their false claims.
- For questions about COVID-19, including where to find testing locations, call the Arkansas Department of Health at 1-800-803-7847.
- Find accurate information about COVID-19, including information about how it spreads, symptoms, prevention and treatment, what to do if you are sick and frequently asked questions, on the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s website.
ATTORNEY GENERAL ALERT: Federal Government Sending Prepaid Debit CardsFri, May 29, 2020
LITTLE ROCK – The U.S. Department of Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has announced that they have begun to release Economic Impact Payments in the form of prepaid debit cards, instead of the paper checks many were anticipating. In accordance with the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, the assigned amount of funds will be placed on prepaid debit cards and sent out to eligible taxpayers.
“My Office has received numerous calls from concerned Arkansans who have recently received the Economic Impact Payments in the form of a prepaid card,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “Arkansans should know these prepaid cards in a plain envelope from Money Network Cardholder Services are actually from the federal government.”
If you receive an Economic Impact Payment Card, it will arrive in a plain envelope from “Money Network Cardholder Services.” The free prepaid cards are issued with detailed instructions on how to easily activate the card. Recipients can transfer the funds from card to an existing bank account without any transaction fees. Funds can also be withdrawn at the ATM, but a transaction fee may apply. The prepaid card can be used anywhere Visa is accepted and provides fraud protections for consumers. Each card gives cardholders the ability to check their balance online, on the mobile app or over the phone without incurring fees.
Rutledge provides the following tips when activating the prepaid card:
- Follow the directions provided with the prepaid card and visit EIPCard.com to activate the card.
- When activating the card, make sure to have a secure PIN number and do not share the number with anyone.
- Watch out for sites requesting your card number and PIN.
- Use the EIPCard.com site to search for surcharge-free ATMs, view the fee schedule and cardholder agreement information.
For more information about Economic Impact Payments, visit the IRS website at www.irs.gov/coronavirus/economic-impact-payment-information-center. If you suspect online phishing scams related to the Economic Impact Payments, contact the Arkansas Attorney General’s office at (800) 482-8982 or oag@ArkansasAG.gov or visit ArkansasAG.gov.