News/Events

Attorney General Alerts

Beware of Flood Insurance Scams

Beware of Flood Insurance Scams

Thu, May 30, 2019

As Arkansas experiences historic flooding and damage, Attorney General Leslie Rutledge warns Arkansans to beware of flood insurance scam artists who will look to steal your money in the midst of the chaos. As the most common natural disaster, flooding can strike at any time, and flood insurance is available to defray the costs of repair and property loss. Flood insurance, however, requires advance preparation and despite what scam artists may say, it cannot be purchased as a quick fix to ongoing flood disasters.

“My heart aches for the many who have and will suffer losses as the Arkansas River continues to rise to record levels this week,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “Scam artists see disaster as an opportunity to steal from those in need. Remember, there are insurance options to help Arkansans navigate future threats of flooding disasters, but consumers should be mindful of the limitations and requirements of the National Flood Insurance Program.”

Rutledge released the following tips to help consumers considering flood insurance as an option to protect their property:

  • Flood insurance policies are not instantly effective and generally require 30 days before they become effective;
  • Consult with an insurance agent to purchase a flood insurance policy, and beware of insurance agents that accept the filing of a claim before purchasing a policy;
  • Most homeowners and renters insurance policies do not include flood insurance, and flood insurance must be purchased as a separate policy;
  • Properties that have been flooded in the past may obtain flood insurance policies;
  • The price of flood insurance may vary based upon the risk of flooding at the property location.

Consumers who have additional questions about flood insurance should contact the Arkansas Attorney General's office at (800) 482-8982 or (501) 682-2007 or the Arkansas Insurance Department at (800) 282-9134 or (501) 371-2600.

The Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) administers the National Flood Insurance Program, and provides answers to specific questions at https://www.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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The Vicious Trend of Vaping

The Vicious Trend of Vaping

Wed, May 22, 2019

The use of e-cigarettes, or vaping, has become a dangerous trend in which too many Arkansas teens are participating. Eight years ago, just two percent of Arkansas teens vaped. Today, more than 20 percent of Arkansas teens vape. Vaping is the act of inhaling and exhaling a vapor, which is produced by an e-cigarette or similar device. The term “vaping” is used because e-cigarettes do not produce tobacco smoke, but rather an aerosol that actually consists of fine particles containing varying amounts of toxic chemicals, which have been linked to cancer, as well as seizures, respiratory and heart diseases.

“As adults, we need to be watchful of the young people around us and educate them about the dangers of vaping,” said Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “Manufacturers make these products to look flashy and appealing to teens. This is an extremely dangerous trend that is hitting Arkansas’s middle and high school students at alarming numbers.”

Attorney General Rutledge released the following tips to warn parents, teachers and children of the dangers of vaping e-cigarettes:

  • Review the ingredients carefully because many of them contain substances known to be carcinogenic, such as nicotine, vegetable glycerin and propylene glycol.
  • Consult your physician about the risks associated with vaping. One pod used in an e-cigarette can have the same amount of nicotine as an entire pack of traditional cigarettes. Exposure to nicotine can alter the structure and function of developing children’s brains.
  • Remember that studies have shown that nicotine products are highly addictive and is associated with later onset of cigarette smoking habits.
  • Investigate the incidence of product failure as some e-cigarette device batteries have exploded or caught on fire, causing burns or even death.
  • Remember to keep e-cigarette supplies out of the reach of small children as some have become sick or died from swallowing the pleasant-smelling e-juice.
  • Be mindful that e-cigarette pods can be used for illegal purposes such as for odorless marijuana oils based upon online tutorials.

There are many different types of e-cigarettes and other vaping devices, most of which contain pods of nicotine-filled e-liquid, sweet-smelling flavorings, and other potentially harmful chemicals. With sweet-smelling aromas and catchy flavor names like Strawberry Watermelon POP, Sunrise Pressed eJuice, Pink Lemonade Risky and Ice Cream, teens are experimenting with, and ultimately becoming addicted, to e-cigarettes. Once they get hooked, teens are often able to hide their addictions from parents, teachers and other adults by purchasing widely available vaping devices disguised as everyday items like pens or USB flash drives.

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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In the Market for an RV, Consider Options Before Buying

In the Market for an RV, Consider Options Before Buying

Wed, May 15, 2019

High pressure tactics from unscrupulous salespeople will result in many Arkansans paying for more than they bargain for when they purchase an RV this summer. Although most RV dealers in the state are straightforward and work with customers to find something within their price that suits their needs, the Attorney General’s office has received complaints about some unscrupulous salespersons who convince buyers to sign contracts with terms that unexpectedly raised costs on the final sale price. Consumers should use caution, ask questions and talk to other owners when considering a large purchase such as an RV.

“Unscrupulous salespeople will often try to pressure consumers into making an immediate purchase in the heat of the moment,” said Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “Arkansans should proceed with extreme caution, take their time and consider if this is the right financial decision for them.”

Attorney General Rutledge released the following tips for Arkansans who are considering purchasing an RV, fifth wheel or camping trailer:

  • Before committing to purchase a travel trailer, take one on a test run or try out a rental.
  • Ensure the towing capacity of current vehicles and determine if any modifications will need to be made to the towing vehicle to ensure safe operation on the open road.
  • Ask if the dealer offers driving tips or training for new owners.
  • Consider where an RV or trailer will be stored when not in use.
  • Find out how to use and where dump stations are located.

Consumers should be mindful of the challenges and costs of repair. In the past, Rutledge has pursued legal action against a Conway County man who was deceiving consumers nationwide about the status of repaired refrigeration units in RVs. In that case, the Attorney General obtained a $1.5 million judgment against NuCold and its owner Jerry Collins.

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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Vacationers Scammed By Online Hotel Bookers

Vacationers Scammed By Online Hotel Bookers

Wed, May 8, 2019

Third-party travel websites are popular but some may charge Arkansans unnecessary, hidden fees. As Arkansans begin to make summer vacation plans, they should use caution when going online for services including booking travel through an online third-party vendor.

“Some unscrupulous online travel vendors use deceptive and misleading marketing tactics to convince consumers they are talking directly to a hotel,” said Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “In these situations, the consumer is actually talking to a third party that may charge additional fees and may cause the reservation and any special reservation requests to be lost or incorrectly recorded.”

Attorney General Rutledge urges all Arkansans to observe the recommendations of the Better Business Bureau and the American Hotel and Lodging Association to ensure safe travel booking:

  • Whenever possible, book directly with the hotel or resort.
  • If using a third-party booking site, make sure the site is legitimate. Do not trust a website just because it appears to be legitimate or comes up near the top of online search results.
  • The best hotel deals are often available far in advance. Planning ahead will give the opportunity to research different sites, compare options and amenities, and lock in a good rate.
  • Avoid broad internet searches like “best deals” or “cheapest rates.” Broad search terms can sometimes lead to websites that look official, but are not. Deceptive travel sites often pose as the actual hotel’s website, even using the hotel’s name in the URL and its logo and copyrighted images throughout the site. Double check the website address before providing your credit card information.
  • Call the hotel a few weeks before the travel date to confirm the reservation.

In 2017, the Federal Trade Commission settled a federal lawsuit with a third-party hotel-booking website accused of misleading consumers into believing they were booking directly with a hotel.

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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Don’t Get Hung Up by Phone Scammers

Don’t Get Hung Up by Phone Scammers

Wed, May 1, 2019

Scammers are continuing to find ways to steal Arkansans’ Social Security numbers. Many of these attempts begin with a robocall requesting a call back and stating that the consumer’s Social Security number has been found, often at the scene of a crime. The person on the other end of the phone threatens the consumer by stating if they do not return the call they will be sent to jail.

“Never give out or confirm personal information, such as your Social Security number, to someone you don’t know,” said Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “Con artists are very good at convincing consumers to turn over personal information, sometimes even turning forceful or threatening. We must all remain vigilant and not turn over any information, especially through an unsolicited phone call.”

Attorney General Rutledge and the Federal Trade Commission released the following tips to use if someone calls claiming to be from a government agency or have your personal information:

  • Use due diligence to confirm the identity and legitimacy of the person on the other end of the phone by hanging up and finding the phone number from an old bill or the organization’s website before giving or confirming any information.
  • Be cautious of callers using organization names similar to existing agencies. Scammers use internet technology to spoof area codes, so although it may seem the call is from Washington, D.C., for example, it could originate from anywhere in the world.
  • The Social Security Administration and other government agencies have warned about these scams and suggest contacting that agency directly.

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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Flooding Brings Headaches for Arkansans

Flooding Brings Headaches for Arkansans

Wed, Apr 24, 2019

After the recent heavy rains and severe storms swept across Arkansas, which caused a section of I-30 to be temporarily shut down and storm damage throughout the State, Arkansans are left picking up the pieces and preparing for storm season. While nature’s fury can be devastating, there are many things that Arkansans can do to protect themselves and their property in the aftermath of a storm.

“Severe storms and flood waters can cause terrible damage to property,” said Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “Arkansans need to know the steps to take if their property has been impacted by the recent severe weather. We also need to know how to protect our pocketbook from those who want to take advantage of us during this difficult time.”

Attorney General Rutledge released the following tips for consumers who are cleaning up water damage on their property:

  • Call your insurance agent. If insurance covers the damage, the agent should have an adjuster contact you.
  • Make a list of the damage and take photographs or video as you clean. This documentation will be needed for insurance claims, applications for disaster assistance, and income tax deductions.
  • Clear away any mud, and clean and disinfect every surface.
  • Check with the Attorney General’s office and the Better Business Bureau before hiring anyone to clean up or make repairs.
  • Get multiple estimates and compare prices.
  • Turn off all electrical and heating and cooling systems to be inspected and repaired or cleaned by a qualified or licensed contractor.
  • Appliances and electronics should be professionally cleaned and serviced to prevent electrocution.
  • Never pay in advance for any repair service, and inspect the completed project before making the final payment.
  • Communicate with the insurance company directly rather than authorizing a contractor to negotiate with the company.

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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