Attorney General Alerts
ATTORNEY GENERAL ALERT: Be Wary of Tax Refund Anticipation LoansThu, Feb 27, 2020
LITTLE ROCK – As April 15 approaches, advertisements for tax refund anticipation loans (RALs) are ramping up. RALs are high-interest loans that must be repaid by the actual tax return proceeds, essentially borrowing your own money. Car dealerships and other businesses selling high priced items often offer to use RALs as down payments. While offers of immediate cash are often attractive, the products could ultimately reduce the total amount of your refund and may even cost you extra money.
“Reading the fine print is critical to not fall victim to a scam or be deceived by a promotion for a refund anticipation loan,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “If you estimate your tax refund incorrectly when using the RAL as a down money for a large purchase, you are still responsible to pay the difference that your tax refund does not cover.”
These loans are regulated by the Arkansas Refund Anticipation Loan Act of 2009.
Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge released the following options for Arkansans to consider before agreeing to have your taxes prepared as part of a RAL.
- Consider the free or low-cost options such as the online Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Free File program or the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance.
- Remember that electronically-filed returns can be deposited in bank accounts in as few as eight days.
- The IRS can also provide refunds by check or prepaid debit card.
- Always get a written list of fees before entering into an agreement or having any tax preparation services performed.
- Many tax preparers like to offer these loans because it attracts new business, but if the tax refund isn’t enough to cover the loan, it can create a headache for consumers.
- Insist on getting any RAL in writing before buying any products or services.
RALs may seem attractive because tax preparations fees can also be covered. But many Arkansans can get free tax preparation services and can therefore save money and keep their entire refund.
The IRS provides a Free File program online that is a federal tax preparation and electronic filing program for approximately 70 percent of taxpayers who earn less than $62,000 in annual adjusted gross income. Eligible consumers can go to IRS.gov and choose from multiple private companies that will file federal returns at no charge.
Some Arkansans may also be eligible to receive free help through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program. Meanwhile, seniors can contact AARP to learn more about the tax preparation services they provide.
For more information about refund anticipation loans and checks, tax preparation and other consumer-related issues, call the Arkansas Attorney General’s Office at (800) 482-8982 or visit ArkansasAG.gov or Facebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.
ATTORNEY GENERAL ALERT: Warning for Vacation Home Renters Ahead of Spring BreakThu, Feb 20, 2020
LITTLE ROCK – Renting personal properties for vacations has gained popularity in recent years with the creation of online marketplaces like Airbnb and VRBO. While the home and condo rentals can give visitors access to experiences they may not get staying in a traditional hotel, it can also allow criminals access to credit card numbers, valuable belongings and sensitive information.
“Vacation rentals make the hosts and visitors vulnerable to theft,” said Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “Being aware of risks and taking precautions can protect you and your family from loss.”
With Spring Break weeks away for many Arkansans and a recent uptick in these types of scams, Attorney General Rutledge issued these safety reminders for both hosts and visitors.
Tips for visitors:
- Only rent from reputable, well-known and insured sites.
- Do not move communication and final rental agreements and payments off the trusted website, even if a lower price is promised.
- Be aware if you are renting the whole property, or if the host will be on-site.
- Communicate with the host about your expectations.
- Pay attention to other travelers’ reviews of the property.
- Feel uneasy? Do not rent.
Tips for hosts:
- Only list your property on reputable, well-known and insured sites.
- Add watermarks to photos used for rental postings to make it more difficult for scammers to copy the photos and use them in fraudulent postings.
- Only conduct business on the website, even if the renter wants to pay in cash or requests a lower rate.
- Take, lock up or hide your personal belongings such as bank account information, personal identification information, valuables or sentimental belongings.
- Clearly disclose on the listing any area of the rental property that is off limits.
- Feel uneasy? Do not rent.
Do not be swayed by lower prices or waived fees if offered to conduct business off the reputable site. Communicating and booking outside the website causes safeguards such as insurance and company-wide scam prevention strategies to no longer be valid. If possible, verify the host or renters identity ahead of the stay. Other red flags include properties with few reviews and not enough photos on an advertised site.
If you believe a rental property scam has occurred, contact local law enforcement and the Arkansas Attorney General’s Office at (800) 482-8982 or email@example.com or visit ArkansasAG.gov or Facebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.
ATTORNEY GENERAL ALERT: 2020 Census ScamsWed, Feb 12, 2020
LITTLE ROCK – Every 10 years, the U.S. Census Bureau has the important job of counting every living person in our country. Beginning in mid-March, an invitation to participate will either be mailed or hand delivered to each home. If no response is received by May either by mail, online or over the phone, census takers will begin visiting homes and can return up to six times until the questionnaire is completed.
“This is one time every person will be contacted by a government entity,” said Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “It’s important for Arkansans to know which questions will and will not be asked by the Census Bureau and not fall prey to scammers pretending to be the Census Bureau.”
According to the Federal Trade Commission, the questionnaire asks:
- How many people are in the home?
- What is their sex, age, race and ethnicity?
- What is their relationship to one another?
- What is the best phone number to reach you?
- Do you own or rent the home?
For a full list of questions, go to 2020census.gov. According to the U.S Census Bureau, every answer is confidential and answers will only be used for statistical purposes.
The following information will NEVER be asked by the Census Bureau:
- Social Security number.
- Money or donations.
- Bank or credit card account information.
- Anything on behalf of or about a political party.
If you are asked these questions by a person claiming to be the with Census Bureau, it is a scam and you should not cooperate with them. Instead, hang up and report the call to the Census Bureau by calling 800-923-8282.
Some households will receive follow-up phone calls from the Census Bureau to ensure quality control. To help distinguish between legitimate Census Bureau calls and scammers, check out “Are You in a Survey? Help for Survey Participants” on the Census Bureau’s website.
If you suspect fraud, call 800-923-8282 to speak with a local Census Bureau representative or call the Attorney General’s Office at (800) 482-8982 or firstname.lastname@example.org. For more scam alerts, visit ArkansasAG.gov or Facebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.
ATTORNEY GENERAL ALERT: Don’t Go Phishing for Love in All the Wrong PlacesWed, Feb 5, 2020
LITTLE ROCK – Dating apps can be like a box of chocolates, but the surprise may be far less sweet. Valentine’s Day is another opportunity for con artists to take advantage of Arkansans putting their hearts and money on the line to find love. By using false pictures and information, a perfect “match” could be a set up for a scam.
“Meeting new people and dating has turned digital, with more than 1,500 dating apps available,” said Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “With so many ‘fish in the sea,’ Arkansans hope to catch a good one, but there is a risk. Keep your private information private and use caution and commonsense when looking for love online.”
Attorney General Rutledge released the following tips for social media users:
- Share your hopes and dreams, not your salary and bank information.
- Be honest about your expectations, not your pin number.
- Reveal your hobbies, not your passwords.
- Open your heart to love, not your wallet to a sob story.
- Plan to meet in public, not in a private, secluded or an unknown place.
- Talk about your favorite vacations, not when you’re leaving town.
- Hope for the best in others, but don’t ignore red flags.
For more information and tips to avoid scams and other consumer-related issues, contact the Attorney General’s Office at (800) 482-8982 or email@example.com or visit ArkansasAG.gov or Facebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.
ATTORNEY GENERAL ALERT: Tax Season is Prime Time for IRS ScammersWed, Jan 29, 2020
LITTLE ROCK – Tax season is like hunting season for con artists. Between the fear of making a mistake on your taxes, and the increased sophistication of scammers, opportunities are endless for bad actors looking to line their pockets during tax season. Each year, many scammers pose as agents with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) by sending emails with fake tax bills and transcripts to Arkansans. The malicious emails often include an attachment that is not a document from the IRS, but instead infectious malware. The email may even threaten arrest if payment is not received immediately using a gift card, prepaid debt card or wire transfer.
“No matter how convincing an email from an IRS employee may seem, even using your name and home address, no government entity will ever ask for payment from an untraceable source,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “This is just another shameful attempt at playing with Arkansans’ emotions and stealing their hard-earned money.”
The increase in data breaches has given criminals more access to sensitive information than ever before, helping make their schemes more believable.
Attorney General Rutledge issued the following tips for anyone who receives an email from someone claiming to be from the IRS:
- Do not reply to the email.
- Do not click on any links.
- Delete the original email.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or visit ArkansasAG.gov or Facebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.
ATTORNEY GENERAL ALERT: Prevent Your Home Security Systems from Being HackedWed, Jan 22, 2020
LITTLE ROCK – Home surveillance systems are designed to increase safety, but recent reports prove they may only be as secure as your passwords. Consumers often use the same passwords for multiple accounts, including these most popular and overused passwords you should never use. In recent years, credentials for more than 8 billion online accounts have been compromised, adding to the necessity of changing login information more frequently.
“Nothing is more important than your family’s safety,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “Hackers attacking your home security system could easily have eyes on our families, so just like changing the battery in a smoke alarm, we need to make changing our sensitive passwords a priority.”
Once a device such as a router or camera in your home is compromised, hackers can often connect to other systems. Since the security breach is through your own home system and not the security camera company, every camera or device connected to the internet is at risk.
Attorney General Rutledge offers these recommendations to help better secure your home from hackers:
- Create complex passwords for all accounts, including your cameras, WiFi and router
- Add two-factor authentication if available
- Upgrade to a cloud-based system
- Update devices regularly
- Choose a surveillance system from a reliable source with excellent customer service
If you receive a call, text or email with an unsolicited confirmation code request, consider changing your password immediately.
If your account is breached, contact your surveillance system provider and local law enforcement.
For more information about 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.