Attorney General Alerts
ATTORNEY GENERAL ALERT: SCRA Protects Military Service MembersWed, Jul 11, 2018
LITTLE ROCK – Even some well-meaning Arkansans may not be aware of the protections granted to our brave military servicemen and women under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) of 2003. Federal laws protect active-duty servicemen and women and their families from potentially harmful civil legal matters. These protections cover insurance, mortgage payments, interest rates, leases, contractual arrangements and civil judicial proceedings.
“Our military men and women put their lives on the line to protect our freedoms,” said Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “Due to their unique needs and service obligations, Congress has implemented safeguards to ensure they have fewer worries at home while they are deployed. But it is important for all Americans to be aware of these protections.”
Attorney General Rutledge released the following tips as part of Military Consumer Month to help service members who need to take advantage of the many protections provided under the SCRA:
- Inform the mortgage company that you are seeking protection under SCRA.
- Provide the lender with written notice of military service.
- Send the lender a copy of the orders calling the service member to active duty.
- Research time constraints that could impact eligibility for some protections.
- Consult the nearest Armed Forces Legal Assistance Office with questions regarding qualifications for SCRA.
The SCRA limits mortgage interest 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 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.
Meanwhile, the 2012 National Mortgage Settlement placed requirements on five major mortgage servicers: Ally, Bank of America, Citi, J.P. Morgan Chase and Wells Fargo. In addition to benefitting all homeowners, these mortgage servicers must notify service members who are 45 days delinquent on mortgage payments that they are entitled to SCRA protections and are eligible for financial counseling from Military OneSource and Armed Forces Legal Assistance. Arkansas was one of 49 states that settled with the mortgages servicers on allegations of illegal actions in servicing loans.
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.
ATTORNEY GENERAL ALERT: Military Consumer MonthTue, Jul 3, 2018
LITTLE ROCK – Scammers’ unrelenting tactics will even take advantage of America’s bravest heroes – our military service members. July is Military Consumer Month and aims to educate military families about potential deceptive practices that specifically target these families and their unique circumstances. In 2017, military consumers around the country reported 50,411 complaints, with nearly 30,000 of those complaints categorized as imposter scams.
“Fraudsters are always trying to steal, cheat and abuse the system,” said Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “But the scammers who specifically target the brave men and women who have risked their lives to protect our nation are particularly despicable. Having such a large military population living in Arkansas, I am working with statewide partners to better support service members and protect them from the con artists and scammers.”
In 2015, Attorney General Rutledge launched the Military and Veterans Initiative at the Attorney General’s Office to assist active duty military, reservists and veterans with consumer-related issues, veterans courts, the Hiring Heroes program and many other collaborative efforts.
Attorney General Rutledge shared the following list from the Federal Trade Commission of the most common complaints filed by service members nationwide.
- Imposter Scams – 29,859 complaints filed
- Telephone and Mobile Services – 3,564 complaints filed
- Shop-at-Home and Catalog Sales – 2,509 complaints filed
- Prizes, Sweepstakes on Lotteries – 1,905 complaints filed
- Foreign Money Offers and Counterfeit Check Scams – 1,480 complaints filed
- Internet Services – 936 complaints filed
- Business and Job Opportunities – 601 complaints filed
- Travel, Vacations and Timeshare Plans – 476 complaints filed
- Grants – 428 complaints filed
- Mortgage Foreclosure Relief and Debt Management – 376 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.
AG ALERT: Staying Safe This Fourth of JulyWed, Jun 27, 2018
LITTLE ROCK – Fireworks are an Independence Day tradition that can be dangerous, if not deadly, if not properly handled. As Arkansans begin to plan for Independence Day, it is important to keep in mind that the Consumer Product Safety Commission reports eight fatalities and an estimated 12,900 injuries related to fireworks in the U.S. in 2017.
“Fireworks are a staple at July 4 celebrations across Arkansas,” said Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “While some families attend community fireworks displays, some decide to put on their own show. I urge extreme caution when lighting fireworks because improper use can lead to fires, serious injury or even death.”
Attorney General Rutledge released the following tips for consumers planning their own holiday fireworks show:
- 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 water hose or bucket of water nearby in case of a fire.
Arkansas’s “Fireworks Act” restricts the types of fireworks that can be sold in the State and the amount of explosive material that each firework may contain.
Firework vendors are required to have a State license. They may not sell fireworks to anyone under the age of 12 or to anyone who appears to be intoxicated. Municipal ordinances may also restrict or regulate fireworks sales and use.
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.
Also consider securing pets during local fireworks displays as many get scared of the loud noises and may try to find a way to get away and seek shelter.
Arkansans to Receive New Medicare CardsWed, Jun 20, 2018
LITTLE ROCK – Arkansans are starting to receive new Medicare cards in the mail – this is not a scam. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) have announced they are issuing new, paper cards to all Medicare recipients. The new card-issuance process is expected to continue through December 2019.
“CMS is taking important steps to update their system and prevent identity theft,” said Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “The new cards will assign a new Medicare number to each individual, and that number will need to be given to doctors and health care providers. Arkansans should look for these cards in the mail, as they are currently being delivered.”
Attorney General Rutledge and the Social Security Administration released the below tips about new Medicare cards:
- New cards will automatically come in the mail. To update an address call the Social Security Administration at 1-800-772-1213 or sign up for a ‘my Social Security’ account (ssa.gov/my account/).
- The new card will have a new Medicare number that is unique to each individual, instead of Social Security Numbers.
- Medicare coverage and benefits will stay the same.
- Mailing takes time, and cards can arrive any time before December 2019.
- The card is now paper, which is easier for many providers to use and copy.
- When the new Medicare card arrives, destroy the old one and begin using the new card right away.
- For Medicare Advantage Plans (like a HMO or PPO) participants, the Medicare Advantage Plan ID is the main card for Medicare. Continue to keep and use it for care, however, medical providers may ask to see the new Medicare card as well.
- Doctors, other health care providers and facilities know the new cards are coming and will ask for it at appointments.
- Only give the new Medicare number to doctors, pharmacists, health care providers, insurers or individuals helping to manage Medicare coverage.
- Doctors or other health care providers may be able to look up Medicare numbers online.
ATTORNEY GENERAL ALERT: The Favorite Grandchild ScamWed, Jun 13, 2018
LITTLE ROCK – A panicked phone call from a person claiming to be a relative needing money right away to get him or her out of some sort of trouble pulls at the heartstrings of elderly Arkansans, but this is more than likely a scam. Con artists continue to disguise themselves as close relatives or favorite grandchildren caught in serious trouble and in need of money wired immediately, often to a location out of the country. With wire transfers similar to cash, the money cannot be retrieved.
“These criminals are ruthless and will stop at nothing to take advantage of innocent Arkansans,” said Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “The favorite grandchild scam is common and scary. Protecting the elderly is a priority of my office and it is important to educate all Arkansans about this issue.”
Attorney General Rutledge recommends the following strategies to avoid falling victim to the “favorite grandson” scheme:
- Resist pressure to act quickly.
- Never give or wire money based on any unsolicited phone call.
- Verify the 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 to easily identify whether or not a need is genuine.
ATTORNEY GENERAL ALERT: Apps Allow Teens to Hide Photos from ParentsWed, Jun 6, 2018
LITTLE ROCK – With kids home for the summer, parents need to know about dangerous phone apps available that allow their kids to actively conceal information, photos and texts from their parents. These apps can easily be downloaded onto any mobile device and have unassuming icons designed to mislead a casual observer and veil their secretive nature. One popular application or app appears to be a calculator. It even functions as a calculator, until the user enters a specific code. The app then opens up to a secret vault of photos and videos that can be stored in the app for sharing, without being detected in the phone’s photo album.
“The world of secret apps is scary for parents across Arkansas,” said Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “Parents should dig deeper into their child’s phone and ask questions about new apps that have been downloaded. The best way to educate our children about internet safety is to be educated ourselves.”
Attorney General Rutledge and Common Sense Media shared the following tips for parents to consider when discussing this topic with their children.
- Talk to teens about using phones responsibly and respecting privacy.
- Remind teens that taking and/or sharing embarrassing or revealing pictures often comes back to haunt people, so resist the temptation.
- Consider that kids might not be trying to hide photos from parents but from nosy friends. If that is the case, try to find out why.
- Do a spot check to see which apps have used the camera. This will reveal any camera apps disguised as something else. (On iPhones go into Settings -> Privacy -> Camera)
There are also apps available to help parents monitor their child’s device. Apps like SecureTeen Parental Control or Parental Control Board are helpful to parents to know who kids are texting, what music they are buying and many other things.
The Attorney General’s office also produces materials for students of all ages, along with parents and guardians to learn more about online and internet safety.
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 email@example.com or visit ArkansasAG.gov or facebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.