Attorney General Alerts
ATTORNEY GENERAL ALERT: Hang up on Paycheck Protection Loan ScammersWed, May 27, 2020
LITTLE ROCK – Scam artists are contacting local business owners by email and phone, pretending to be affiliated with the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), a loan program administered by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) under the CARES Act. While these loans have been the lifeline for many businesses and their employees, the scams can result in even greater losses and financial peril.
“These paycheck protection loans are a key part to our economic recovery to assist hard working Arkansas businesses and their employees,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “But, it is shameful and illegal to pose as a government entity to provide false and deceptive services to businesses that are trying to use the paycheck protection loan to survive.”
Scam artists look for ways to turn a business’s or consumer’s cash into their own. Often, government-assistance programs like the PPP provide an obvious and easy target. Scammers use these governmental initiatives by pretending to be an SBA-authorized lender or similar loan program by telephone or email. In email, scammers will impersonate legitimate websites and use email addresses by changing one or two letters in the name. By telephone, scammers sometimes utilize illegal robocalls as a way to reach business owners and consumers. In both situations, scam businesses are seeking upfront payment of fees.
Attorney General Rutledge has identified tips for Arkansans to use when contacted by email or phone regarding a paycheck protection loan:
- If you get an email that looks like it is from the SBA or your bank, do not click on any links. Instead, go directly to the organization's website for information;
- The government will never ask you to pay up front and it will not call to ask for your Social Security, bank account or credit card number;
- Be cautious about companies that offer to expedite or facilitate your ability to get PPP loans. If you are considering using an online provider or lender, stick with those you already know and trust;
- Be wary of companies you've never heard of or that call or send you emails out of the blue; and
- Check the spelling of email and website addresses, as scammers frequently utilize addresses that appear similar to legitimate ones in order to deceive.
ATTORNEY GENERAL ALERT: Antibody Testing Marketed to Have Exaggerated CapabilitiesWed, May 13, 2020
Says, ‘take advantage of Arkansans during the pandemic by making unsubstantiated claims about COVID-19 related tests will be identified and prosecuted’
LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas is gradually opening the door and life is slowly going back to normal, but Arkansans are looking for ways to protect their families as well as neighbors and friends while reconnecting. Antibody tests, or serology tests, are thought to be a useful resource to identify asymptomatic individuals, for those who have recovered from COVID-19 or who may have had COVID-19 and recovered, but were never tested. However, any antibody tests on the market claiming to accurately determine antibodies may be exaggerating the tests’ capabilities to diagnose COVID-19.
“Arkansans are being thoughtful as they reconnect with their loved ones, but are also considering the risks to those in the most vulnerable populations,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “Those who are trying to take advantage of Arkansans during the pandemic by making unsubstantiated claims about COVID-19 related tests will be identified and prosecuted.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “serologic test results have limitations that make them less than ideal tools for diagnosing people who are sick. Depending on when someone was infected and the timing of the test, the test may not find antibodies in someone with a current COVID-19 infection.”
Attorney General Rutledge has identified tips for Arkansans to use when considering antibody testing:
- Antibody tests should not be used to diagnose someone as currently sick with COVID-19; you should contact your health care provider if you suspect active COVID-19
- Most health insurance pays for COVID-19 testing if a person has symptoms or has been exposed
- Do not believe advertisements for vaccinations or medications to prevent or treat COVID-19 that are not recommended by the CDC or your health care provider
- Tests should be administered by a health care professional – there are no approved or reliable take-at-home antibody tests
- Do not disclose personal or financial information to an unknown person or on an unfamiliar website or social media because it could result in identity theft or fraud
- Paying a lot of money does not make a test more accurate or keep you safe from COVID-19
ATTORNEY GENERAL ALERT: Scammers Attempt to Extort Arkansans into PayoutThu, Apr 30, 2020
Says, ‘Criminals are using old or similar passwords to illegally extort Arkansans’
LITTLE ROCK – While social distancing, Arkansans have been taking precautions and staying at home, which means more time spent online. As a result, scam artists are using tactics to extort money from Arkansans by threatening to release compromising photos. To dupe the recipient of an extortion email, the scammer may print the consumer’s email password or use high-pressure tactics to get them to pay right away. These actions are not only a scam, but also a criminal offense.
“Criminals are using old or similar passwords to illegally extort Arkansans into sending large sums of money to scam artists,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “Anyone threatening or using high-pressure tactics to force payment is perpetrating a scam, and any Arkansan receiving such communications should cease contact immediately with the scammer and call my office.”
Attorney General Rutledge along with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has provided these tips for Arkansans using the internet while social distancing.
- Do not open emails or attachments from unknown individuals.
- Monitor your bank account statements regularly, and your credit report at least once a year for any unusual activity.
- Do not respond to unsolicited email senders or click on phishing links, outdated information or give personal information through email.
- Do not store sensitive information online or on your mobile devices.
- Use strong passwords containing numbers and symbols, and do not use the same password for multiple websites.
- Never provide personal information of any sort via email. Be aware that many emails requesting your personal information appear to be legitimate.
- Ensure security settings for social media accounts are activated and set at the highest level of protection.
- Verify the web address of legitimate websites and manually type the address into your browser for greater protection.
For more information, or if you believe you have been a victim of criminal extortion file a complaint with the FBI at www.ic3.gov or contact the Arkansas Attorney General’s office at (800) 482-8982 or oag@ArkansasAG.gov or visit ArkansasAG.gov.
ATTORNEY GENERAL ALERT: Illegal Ponzi Schemes will only Steal Arkansan’s Hard-earned MoneyFri, Apr 24, 2020
Rutledge says, ‘If it seems too good to be true, then it probably is’
LITTLE ROCK – The COVID pandemic has sparked concern about more than just your personal health. It has created economic hardships for many Arkansans. As many seek to ensure they can pay their bills, illegal Ponzi schemes disguised as goodwill gestures such as so-called “Blessing Looms” are freely shared on social media that will ultimately steal money from those who fall prey.
“If it seems too good to be true, then it probably is,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “Blessing looms scams and other Ponzi schemes will ask for you to pay a small amount of money in order to receive a large payout as more people participate. I want every Arkansan to be aware of these schemes so they can keep their hard-earned savings in their wallets.”
Scammers use the “Blessing Looms” scam by posting it on social media and ask unwary readers to pay an entry fee (e.g., $100) with the promise that, as more people pay to build the pot of money by paying the entry fee, the participant will also get a payout (as much as $800) of that money. The surest way to identify these scams is if they promise large payouts in return for small investments, if they tell factually unsupported “success stories” of happy customers, or if they explain that future results rely on bringing in new participants to the scheme.
Attorney General Rutledge has identified several tips for Arkansans to use in protecting themselves against Ponzi schemes:
- If something sounds too good to be true, then it probably is. Know that large sums of money generally do not result from small investments.
- Safeguard banking and financial information in order to prevent theft due to scams.
- When using the internet, ensure that you are using a verified, secure, and encrypted website when sharing any personal or financial information online. Instead of clicking embedded links, consider typing the company’s actual URL website address in the search bar.
- Do not disclose personal information to an unknown person online because it could result in identity theft or the opening of other accounts in their name.
ATTORNEY GENERAL ALERT: Be Wary of Middlemen Promising Protective Equipment from Foreign ManufacturersTue, Apr 14, 2020
Rutledge says, ‘As with any business transaction, we should always be cognizant of deals that are too good to be true’
LITTLE ROCK – As state and local governments, hospitals and health care organizations, and businesses have worked to acquire personal protective equipment (PPE) to protect their employees and citizens from exposure, many middleman businesses have arisen to broker deals with foreign manufacturers in order to supply the desperately-needed equipment. These brokers purport to offer NIOSH-approved masks, face shields and gowns in mass quantities but at inflated prices. Furthermore, many brokers cannot verify the quality of the products or the authenticity of their overseas sources.
“Just like law enforcement officers expect and depend on their body armor for protection, individuals shouldn’t have to be concerned about the legitimacy of the PPE that they are wearing,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “As with any business transaction, we should always be cognizant of deals that are too good to be true. Buyers should do their due diligence to confirm the authenticity of the products prior to purchase and should report scam and price gouging suspicions to my office.”
Attorney General Rutledge provided the following tips in order to protect the public health and to avoid unintended consequences and financial losses:
- When ordering PPE from online retailers, always verify the Uniform Resource Locator (URL) and confirm “https” in the web address, as a lack of a security certification (“https”) may be an indicator that the site is insecure or compromised.
- The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) is part of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Air purifying respirators approved by NIOSH are available at https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/npptl/topics/respirators/disp_part/default.html.
- In particular, consult the NIOSH website to –
- For further guidance regarding non-NIOSH-approved respirator masks that may qualify as approved, consult guidance from the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) at https://www.fda.gov/media/136403/download.
- If procuring other categories of PPE such as gowns, gloves, goggles, and face shields, consult the manufacturer to verify authenticity and availability.
- Be wary of unprompted solicitations to purchase large quantities of PPE and do not provide usernames, passwords, personal identifying information (PII) such as social security number and date of birth, or financial information in response to an email or robocall.
- Ask the seller for information about the manufacturer, its location and its reputation for manufacturing high-quality goods.
- Check with the Secretary of State’s Office to determine if the broker is registered to do business in Arkansas and is in good standing.
To find out more information about COVID scams and fake websites, or file a consumer complaint visit ArkansasAG.gov or call (800) 482-8982.
ATTORNEY GENERAL ALERT: Virtual Meetings Can Put Arkansans at RiskWed, Apr 8, 2020
Rutledge says, ‘ensure these necessary online meeting platforms take every action to protect users’
LITTLE ROCK – Arkansans have adapted to a new environment where social distancing has become our new normal, and working from home brings a new set of challenges. Virtual meetings provide an essential mode of communication for work and school, but bad actors have also found opportunities to exploit vulnerabilities in the virtual environment to steal or extort money from individuals and businesses.
“Having fought online predators, I know that they seek to exploit any weakness in our security, whether targeting children or businesses,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “As Attorney General, I’ve been working to ensure these necessary online meeting platforms take every action to protect users as we all do our best to get through this current crisis.”
Attorney General Rutledge has provided these tips for Arkansans using virtual platforms to connect with each other while social distancing.
- Utilize tools provided by the online meeting platform to restrict access to virtual meetings, classrooms and conference calls, including the use of passwords if possible;
- Be wary of suspicious emails inviting you to click links or join meetings or to download shared documents;
- Be cautious of advertisements or emails purporting to be from telework software vendors;
- Join online meetings only if prearranged with a person with whom a preexisting business or personal relationship exists;
- Select trusted and reputable network software vendors;
- Don’t give personally-identifiable information in online meeting venues.