Attorney General Alerts
Staying Safe on Social MediaWed, Sep 2, 2015
When used appropriately, social media sites are an enjoyable and effective way to keep in touch with friends and family. But there are potential dangers associated with these sites, including online predators. Social networking sites can provide a false sense of security for users who ignore the risks in making connections online.
Attorney General Leslie Rutledge issued today’s consumer alert to provide online safety tips to Arkansans to keep everyone and their personal information safe.
“Online social networking has become an everyday way of life,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “All Arkansans, but particularly teens, need to be made aware of the downfalls of social media. Parents and families must explain proper Internet habits and uses. This requires moms and dads, aunts and uncles and grandparents to get smart online.”
Attorney General Rutledge released the following tips for parents and families to keep their teens and children safe online:
- Keep tablets, laptops and cell phones in a shared area of the house with frequent foot traffic so that responsible household members can monitor times of use and materials viewed.
- Establish guidelines about the use of these devices, as well as an open dialogue on what is acceptable online behavior.
- Be aware of what Internet sites are frequented by children and teens. Blocking or screening services are available through Internet service providers or by purchasing software.
- Consider how different social networking sites operate before deciding if a child should join. Some sites allow only specific age groups or a defined community of users to access posted content, while others allow anyone and everyone to view postings.
- Remind teens that once information is posted online, it cannot be removed. Even if information is deleted from a site, older versions can continue to exist on other sites. Helping to keep control over posted information by restricting access to a select group of people is advisable.
- Warn children to be wary of friends they know solely online and never give out their telephone number, home or school address or other personal information.
- Discuss the dangers of meeting new online friends in person, and encourage them to share with a trusted adult if an online friend’s behavior seems strange.
Social networking sites have exploded in popularity in the past decade. According to a Pew Research survey last month, Facebook reports that 72 percent of U.S. adults who are online are active users, meanwhile 23 percent are on Twitter, 28 percent are on Instagram and 18 percent are on Snapchat. Snapchat is reported to be the fastest growing social media platform especially among children, teens and young adults.
For more information on Internet and social media safety and other consumer-related issues, call the Arkansas Attorney General’s Office at (800) 482-8982 or visit ArkansasAG.gov or facebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.
Understanding AppsWed, Aug 26, 2015
Technology is constantly evolving and leading to new ways to make everyday tasks a little easier − from grocery shopping to mapping out directions and automatically paying the bills. According to Pew Research, nearly two-thirds of Americans now own a smartphone. More people are browsing app stores to download games, utilities and other useful applications. While these apps have great uses, some do not protect personal information and some can even download viruses to your phone.
Attorney General Leslie Rutledge issued today’s consumer alert to educate Arkansans on how to ensure personal information is protected and kept private from app companies and even scammers.
Attorney General Rutledge released the following tips for smartphone users:
- Be aware that some free apps contain advertising within the app, offer “in-app” purchases or make a more advanced version of the app available for a cost.
- Consumers concerned about sharing location data with advertisers can turn off location services in phone settings.
- Keep apps up to date by installing new versions or upgrades when available because updates could contain security fixes.
- Parents should talk to children about rules for using apps and try the app before allowing children to access it.
Computer hackers have even created apps that can infect phones and mobile devices with malware. Malware is software, including spyware, viruses and phishing scams and can result in emails or texts being sent that were not actually written by the owner of the phone, or even make charges to accounts saved on the phone. If malware is found to be downloaded, contact the service provider, notify the company that made the device or install a security app to scan and remove malware apps.
For more information on protecting personal information and other Internet safety information, along with consumer-related issues, call the Arkansas Attorney General’s Office at (800) 482-8982 or visit ArkansasAG.gov or facebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.
Be Cautious with CreditWed, Aug 19, 2015
Young adults across Arkansas are determining the best course of action to manage upcoming expenses. One option many will consider is signing up for a credit card.
Credit cards serve a great purpose, but consumers need to remember that carrying balances on credit cards can be quite costly, especially if cardholders make only the minimum monthly payments because late charges and accrued interest continue to build on the unpaid balance.
Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge issued today’s consumer alert to warn young consumers about the potential downfalls of entering the credit market.
“Buy now, pay later credit plans may seem like an easy way to cover expenses in the short term,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “But these could lead to long-term problems if consumers take out cards with high interest rates or reach the credit limits. Consumers can establish a respectable credit history with credit cards by using them responsibly.”
Attorney General Rutledge offered the following tips to consider when signing up for a credit card:
- Though credit card offers may be appealing, avoid accepting too many offers. Having too much credit can lead to unmanageable debt.
- Choose a card based on the cost of credit, which includes the interest rate charged on credit balances and other fees.
- Submit payments on time. Consistently making timely payments is the only way to improve your credit ratings and qualify for less expensive credit.
- Pay the balance owed each month. Although it may seem easier to pay the minimum balance, doing so costs more in the long run, and it takes much longer to pay off the debt.
- Be aware of promotional or introductory interest rates. Many cards start out with low rates but eventually move up to higher rates. Make sure you know when the high rate begins.
- Steer clear of “over-the-limit” protection. It can be very expensive over time, especially on small transactions.
- Protect your credit score by refraining from “maxing out” a credit card.
- Read the fine print. Remember, a credit card application is a contract.
In 1999, the Arkansas General Assembly enacted legislation to restrict the practice of marketing credit cards on college campuses in order to combat high pressure solicitations that were targeting college students. A decade later, Congress took additional steps to limit solicitations. Some credit card companies are offering specific student credit cards that come with additional financial education and support for college students.
For more information on managing credit cards and other consumer-related issues, call the Arkansas Attorney General’s Office at (800) 482-8982 or visit ArkansasAG.gov or facebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.
Protecting Those Who ServeWed, Aug 12, 2015
Federal laws protect our active-duty servicemen and women and their families from mortgage foreclosures and exorbitant interest rates.
Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge issued today’s consumer alert to educate Arkansas’s active-duty servicemen and women and families about safeguards that are in place if they plan to buy or currently own a home.
“Our military men and women put their lives on the line to protect us, and they have unique needs because of their service,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “Laws are in place to protect their homes while they are deployed, and they need to know about these programs.”
The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act of 2003 (SCRA) protects active-duty service members from potentially harmful civil legal matters. These protections cover insurance, mortgage payments, interest rates, leases, contractual arrangements and civil judicial proceedings.
SCRA limits mortgage interest to 6 percent during military service and up to one year after service ends. It prevents a mortgage creditor from selling, foreclosing or seizing an active-duty service member’s mortgaged property during service and up to nine months 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.
Attorney General Rutledge released the following tips to help service members who need to take advantage of the 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.
In April, Rutledge launched the first-ever Military and Veterans Initiative at the Attorney General’s Office. This initiative seeks to assist active-duty military service members, reservists, veterans and their families with consumer related issues, Veterans Treatment Courts, the Hiring Heroes Program and many other collaborative efforts.
Arkansas military service members, veterans and families should file consumer complaints with the Attorney General’s Office on ArkansasAG.gov or by calling (800) 482-8982.
Is that Data Breach Letter Real?Wed, Aug 5, 2015
The Arkansas Attorney General’s Public Protection Department has received a number of calls regarding a recent data breach at Medical Informatics Engineering (MIE). MIE services health care providers by storing personal and protected health information of patients across the country, including Arkansans.
MIE began mailing out notice letters to affected individuals last week causing many Arkansans to question the letter’s legitimacy because they are not aware of the third party service providers that often manage personal data.
Attorney General Leslie Rutledge issued today’s consumer alert to help Arkansans determine whether or not a breach notice is valid and to offer tips on what to do if they have questions about credit monitoring.
“For good reason, many Arkansans are learning to be skeptical of unsolicited communication,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “Although scammers use fake letters, this letter is real, and our Public Protection Department is on standby to assist those who may have fallen victim to a data breach.”
Attorney General Rutledge offers the following tips if you are notified of a data breach:
- First, if you are concerned about the validity of the letter, contact the Arkansas Attorney General’s Office Public Protection Department at (800) 482-8982, email@example.com or ask consumer related questions at ArkansasAG.gov.
- If the data breach is determined to impact your personal information and the compromised information relates to existing financial accounts or your Social Security number, contact your financial institution to close or change the account information as soon as possible.
- Consider placing a fraud alert on your credit bureau reports by contacting one of the three major credit bureaus. A fraud alert is designed to stop an identity thief from using personal information to open fraudulent credit accounts.
- If fraudulent activity has occurred, consider placing a security freeze on your credit bureau reports in an effort to prevent credit, loans and services from being approved in your name without consent.
- File complaints with the Federal Trade Commission and the Arkansas Attorney General’s Office if the data breach is confirmed to have included your personal information.
- Periodically monitor credit bureau reports for any unusual activity and check for accuracy. Everyone is allowed one free credit report per year from each of the three major credit bureaus. To learn how to obtain a free annual credit report under federal law, visit annualcreditreport.com or call (877) 322-8228. A victim of fraud is eligible to receive one free credit report from each of the major credit bureaus. Requests for a free report based on a fraud claim should be made directly to the credit bureaus:
For more information on steps to take if a data breach has compromised personal information and other consumer related issues, call the Arkansas Attorney General’s Office at (800) 482-8982 or visit ArkansasAG.gov or facebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.
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.