Attorney General Alerts
First-Time RenterWed, Jul 29, 2015
As summer winds down and young adults turn their attention back to school or work, many are deciding where to live. College students are making plans to move to their college or university and weighing their housing options of living in a dorm or renting, while others are looking for the right apartment or house to rent. Some will be renting for the first time and need to know that shopping for an apartment or rental house is just as important and complex as buying a car or evaluating the benefits of a new phone or game console.
Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge issued today’s alert to educate young consumers on how to be smart while shopping for an apartment or rental house.
“Many college students opt for off-campus housing, rather than living in the dorms,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “And many young adults have been saving money to move into their first place. These young renters need to know what questions to ask a landlord, what to look for in an apartment or rental house and the warning signs of a bad deal.”
Attorney General Rutledge released the following tips to those considering rental options:
- Read the lease in full before signing and ask questions.
- Ask about the utilities. Who is the provider for each service? What is the average monthly cost? Does the landlord cover any of these costs?
- Consider asking the landlord or local law enforcement if there have been any noise complaints filed against the neighbors.
- Consider contacting the local police department or campus police to ask about safety of the area.
- Look at the condition of the carpet and paint to ensure its quality.
- Take pictures of the carpet, paint, appliances and any other fixtures before moving in. This could protect you if a landlord claims you caused any damages.
- Ask the landlord if he or she will be responsible for appliance/air conditioning/furnace maintenance and make sure those responsibilities are mentioned in the lease.
- Learn about the lease cancellation policy and ask questions.
- Consider a nine-month lease for the school term instead of a full 12-month lease.
- Clarify the details of the security deposit and the landlord’s policy for its return after the apartment or rental house is vacated.
Renters should also familiarize themselves with state as well as local city laws about landlords and tenants.
Late last year, Fayetteville, Arkansas, joined other university towns across the country, including Salisbury, Maryland, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Ames, Iowa, passing an ordinance requiring landlords to confirm, in writing, no more than three unrelated roommates are living together in a single-family home. This ordinance stemmed from homeowners near the University of Arkansas complaining about noise, trash and parking issues when more than three college students live together in a single-family home.
For more information on landlord and tenant rights and responsibilities, or to file a complaint, call the Arkansas Attorney General’s Office at (800) 482-8982 or visit ArkansasAG.gov or facebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.
No Big Payouts in the International LotteryWed, Jul 22, 2015
International scammers are once again turning to Arkansas to make some extra money by telling Arkansans they have won money in an international lottery. These con artists contact Arkansas consumers through direct mail, email or a phone call requesting a small fee in order to process these cash prizes.
Usually the con artist claims that the recipient has won a lottery or an expensive prize, such as a car or a trip. All the consumer has to do is submit either a small payment or personal financial information to claim the prize. Payments are often requested as “processing fees” or “customs charges.”
Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge issued today’s consumer alert to warn Arkansans about the dangers of falling for an international lottery scheme.
“International lottery ploys are another clever attempt to steal money from consumers,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “These scammers use lies and deceitful techniques to pressure Arkansans out of their hard-earned money. My office is committed to educating people to help them avoid becoming victims.”
Attorney General Rutledge offered the following tips for anyone who receives communication about a foreign lottery or prize:
- A consumer should never have to pay something to receive a “free” prize. Be wary of anyone requiring payment in advance to obtain winnings.
- Be cautious if someone asks that a fee be paid through a pre-paid credit card or by wiring money. If such payments are made, the money may never be seen again. Legitimate organizations will accept standard and traceable forms of payment.
- It is a violation of federal law to play international lottery through mail or over the telephone.
- People who accept these offers become targets of other scammers when their information is shared or sold to others.
- Never provide any financial account information to an unknown person or entity.
The U.S. Postal Inspection Service estimates Americans pay these scammers $120 million per year for this one scam even as the Postal Service intercepts and destroys millions of foreign lottery mailings sent or delivered by the truckload into the United States.
Earlier this year, a Jamaican man was extradited to the U.S. where he pleaded guilty to 38 counts of conspiracy and wire fraud as part of an international lottery scheme. Damion Bryan Barrett, 29, is the first Jamaican citizen to be extradited to the United States based on charges of defrauding Americans in connection with a lottery scheme.
For more information on what to do if you are a victim of a scam 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.
Don’t be Scammed by your ‘Favorite Grandson’Wed, Jul 15, 2015
Scammers are reviving an old ploy to swindle the elderly out of their money. The Arkansas Attorney General’s Office Public Protection Department has recently seen an uptick in reports of the “favorite grandson” scam.
These con artists prey on the elderly by calling and identifying themselves as the individual’s favorite grandson or other close relative, who is in serious trouble or has been in an accident and needs money wired right away, often to a location outside the United States. Unfortunately, wire transfers are similar to cash, and if the individual falls for the scheme, there is usually no way to get the money back.
Attorney General Leslie Rutledge issued today’s consumer alert to make people of all ages aware of this scam and to provide tips to avoid becoming a victim.
“These thieves will stop at nothing to take advantage of people,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “My office continues to work to protect the elderly. It is our duty to stop these scammers who pull at heartstrings to get at purse strings.”
Attorney General Rutledge offered the following tips to avoid falling victim to the “favorite grandson” scam:
- Resist pressure to act quickly.
- Never give or wire money based on any unsolicited phone call.
- Verify your family member’s location by directly calling another family member or the grandchild.
- Do not send money to an unknown account or entity.
- Ask the caller for his or her name, and if they cannot provide it, hang up immediately.
- Have a plan in place when family members are traveling so that you can easily identify whether or not a need is genuine.
- Contact the Attorney General’s Office at (800) 482-8982 if you have been a victim of this scam.
The Attorney General’s Office reports elderly Arkansans losing thousands of dollars after falling for this scam. The Federal Trade Commission reported 40,000 cases occurring in the United States between 2010 and 2013.
Military Consumer Protection DayWed, Jul 8, 2015
Military service members, veterans and their families are often subject to unfair, deceptive or abusive financial practices. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) began collecting data specific to military personnel and their families in 2011 and reports approximately 29,500 complaints were submitted through 2014.
The CFPB reports 39 percent of those complaints were on debt collection, with the majority of those regarding continued attempts to collect debt that is not owed.
Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge issued today’s consumer alert to help recognize Military Consumer Protection Day on July 15 and to make military service members, veterans and families aware of the top consumer complaints so they will know how to get help with these issues.
“Our military men and women are our everyday heroes,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “These service members protect this great country. We owe it to these brave men and women to help educate them on how to protect themselves and their families regarding financial practices.”
Attorney General Rutledge shared the following list from the CFPB of the most common complaints filed by service members.
- Debt collection – approximately 11,600 complaints filed
- Mortgage payment and loan – approximately 7,100 complaints filed
- Credit reporting – approximately 2,700 complaints filed
- Credit card – approximately 2,500 complaints filed
- Bank account or service – approximately 2,400 complaints filed
- Consumer loan – approximately 1,400 complaints filed
- Student loan – approximately 700 complaints filed
- Payday loan – approximately 600 complaints filed
Arkansas military service members, veterans and families should file complaints with the Attorney General’s Office on ArkansasAG.gov or by calling (800) 482-8982. Upon submission, the complaint will be entered into the tracking system and assigned a number and an investigator. Within five business days, a postcard should be received in the mail acknowledging receipt of the complaint, and a copy of the complaint will be sent to the business. It is requested that the business respond within 10 business days. Once it does, the Attorney General will provide a copy of the response to the consumer.
Military Consumer Protection Day is a partnership between attorneys general from across the country, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Better Business Bureau, Federal Trade Commission, and many more organizations. Military Consumer Protection Day is an initiative to empower active duty and retired service members, veterans and families and help them defend against fraud and make better-informed decisions when managing money.
Plan a Safe July 4Wed, Jul 1, 2015
Since 1776, Americans have celebrated Independence Day with festivities ranging from barbecues and parades to concerts and fireworks. These traditions are great opportunities for family and friends to gather and celebrate the holiday. President John Adams once declared that Independence Day should be celebrated with “illuminations from one end of this continent to the other from this time forward forever more.”
It is no surprise that fireworks are now a common custom for many people to celebrate the holiday across the United States.
“Fireworks can be fun if Arkansans remember to follow safety precautions,” said Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “But improper use or malfunctioning fireworks can lead to serious injury and even death.”
The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) reported 11 fatalities and an estimated 10,500 injuries related to fireworks in the U.S. in 2014. Among those injuries, 67 percent occurred in the 30 days surrounding July 4.
Attorney General Rutledge issued today’s consumer alert to remind Arkansans to keep safety and fireworks regulations in mind when celebrating Independence Day.
Arkansas State law, which regulates the sale and use of fireworks, requires sellers to obtain a license in order to sell fireworks legally in the State. Vendors must also follow restrictions, including selling fireworks to anyone under 12 or to anyone who appears intoxicated.
State law only allows exploding fireworks to be sold each year from June 20 to July 10 and from Dec. 10 to Jan. 5. Non-exploding items, such as sparklers and snakes, may be sold throughout the year.
Even if fireworks are legally purchased, they can still be a safety hazard. In 2014, the CPSC reported 1,400 injuries from sparklers.
Attorney General Rutledge encourages consumers to follow these safety recommendations:
- Only buy fireworks from a licensed store, tent or stand.
- Use fireworks outdoors in a clear area.
- Read and follow all warnings and instructions.
- Supervise children at all times and make sure adults light every firework, including sparklers, which can reach 2,000 degrees.
- Make sure other people are out of range before lighting fireworks.
- Never relight a malfunctioning firework. Soak the duds in water and throw them away.
- Do not shoot fireworks from metal or glass containers.
- Keep a bucket of water handy in case of a fire.
It is also important to make sure that fireworks are set off in permissible areas. In some cities, it is illegal to set off or possess fireworks. Fireworks may not be ignited within 600 feet of any church, hospital or public school or within 200 feet of where fireworks are sold or stored.
For more information about fireworks safety, related Arkansas laws and other consumer related issues, call the Arkansas Attorney General’s Office at (800) 482-8982 or visit ArkansasAG.gov or facebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.
Avoiding Vacation ScamsWed, Jun 24, 2015
School is out for the summer, and many Arkansans are taking vacations. These trips can be great for relaxation and fun, but consumers should take precautions to protect themselves from scams and con artists.
Michigan-based financial advisor, Rick Bloom, wrote in an op-ed piece last week, “thieves know that we all tend to put our guard down when we’re on vacation.”
Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge issued today’s consumer alert to help Arkansans keep their guard up and avoid being scammed before or during vacation.
“There are many different aspects to planning a trip – from transportation to housing and excursions. Travelers need to remember to be cautious,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “If an offer seems too good to be true, it probably is. Research options and do not be pressured into signing up for anything.”
Attorney General Rutledge offered the following tips to recognize a scam:
- A legitimate company will not require payment for a prize. If a company requires fees to be paid after awarding a free vacation it is likely a scam. Find out the costs before agreeing to anything.
- If a travel agency will not provide the phone number or address of all or some of the arrangements it has made, there may be a problem. The more vague the promise, the less likely it is to be true. Call each company to verify reservations.
- High-pressure sales tactics could be a sign of a scam. The pressure to sign up or miss out is a signal to walk away.
- Be wary of wiring money as it is the same as sending cash; once sent, there is no way to get it back.
- Travelers should pay by credit card as much as possible because it is easier to dispute the charges with the credit card company if the promised services were not provided.
Attorney General Rutledge also encourages travelers to make copies of credit cards, passports and driver’s licenses, along with emergency contact information in case any of these documents are stolen.
All travel scams should be reported to the Federal Trade Commission, local law enforcement and the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division. For 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.