News/Events

Attorney General Alerts

Tax Season IRS Imposters

Tax Season IRS Imposters

Wed, Feb 13, 2019

Tax season is in full swing and scammers are posing as Internal Revenue Service (IRS) agents and sending emails with fake tax bills and transcripts to Arkansans. These malicious emails often include an attachment that is not a document from the IRS but rather something harmful that will infect the user’s computer with vicious malware once it is opened. The email may even threaten Arkansans with arrest if payment is not received immediately using a gift card, prepaid debit card or wire transfer.

“The IRS will never send unsolicited emails or accept payment from a prepaid gift card or wire transfer,” said Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “This scam to dupe Arkansans out of their hard-earned money, or steal their personal information, is just one more shameful attempt by criminals to line their own pockets.”

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 open any attachments which can contain malicious code that may infect computers or mobile phones.

· Do not click on any links.

· Delete the original email.

Consumers who receive this scam via email should forward it to the IRS at phishing@irs.gov and file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.

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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Scammers Seek Money Not Love On Dating Apps

Scammers Seek Money Not Love On Dating Apps

Wed, Feb 6, 2019

Valentine’s Day is another opportunity for scam artists to take advantage of Arkansans putting their heart and money on the line to find love. Con artists are using dating apps, often pretending to be someone they aren’t, with false pictures and information, to get the attention of others with the intent of stealing money from the kind-hearted people they meet on these sites.

“Arkansans should have the opportunity to meet new people without the fear of someone taking advantage of them and their wallets,” said Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “On dating sites, Arkansans must be cautious and keep personal information private. Con artists know how to play on emotions to convince people they need help when they are only wanting to steal money and identities to open credit accounts.”

Attorney General Rutledge released the following tips for social media users:

  • It’s called personal information for a reason—keep it to yourself!
  • Do not give out personal information such as addresses and telephone numbers.
  • Consider speaking by telephone before meeting in person, and when meeting in person, make plans to meet new people in a public venue, or bring a friend.
  • Don't post any information that would let someone know you are away on vacation or your house is empty. Posting about being out of town for a few days could make someone a likely target for thieves.
  • Don't post any information that can lead hackers to passwords for online banking or other accounts. For example, common questions for those who have forgotten their passwords for financial or other sites include: “What’s your mother’s maiden name?” or “What’s your favorite pet?” Criminals may be able to find those answers easily on social networking sites.

The Attorney General’s office provides a tip card for consumers, information for parents to spot cyberbullying and offers a Parent’s Guide to Internet Safety. Community educators are also available to present an internet safety program to parents and educators across the state.

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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Tax Refund Fraud

Tax Refund Fraud

Wed, Jan 30, 2019

Identity theft is a constant concern for Arkansans, but tax time brings additional anxiety over protecting personal information. Tax refund fraud occurs when a Social Security number is stolen and used to file a tax return and the resulting refund is claimed by the thief. Unfortunately, many people are unaware that this fraud has occurred until they attempt to file their own taxes and discover that a return has already been filed using their Social Security number.

“Tax-related fraud is the most common form of identity theft,” said Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “As we begin the process to file taxes, Arkansans must remain vigilant in protecting personal financial information to try to avoid falling victim to this type of scam.”

Attorney General Rutledge released the following steps to take if you fall victim to tax refund fraud:

  • File a fraud alert with one of the three national credit bureaus. The selected credit bureau is required to contact the other two bureaus, which will result in a fraud alert with all three bureaus. Once a fraud alert has been placed, if an application for credit is filed in your name and the prospective creditor checks your credit report, the prospective creditor will be alerted to the possibility of identity theft.
  • File an identity theft report with a local law enforcement agency.
  • Close any accounts that have been tampered with or opened fraudulently. Contact the company involved to dispute fraudulent transactions or accounts. Ask the company whether a fraud affidavit is required.
  • File an identity theft complaint with the Federal Trade Commission or call (877) IDTHEFT (438-4338).
  • Consider placing a security freeze on your credit report. A security freeze is designed to restrict access to your credit report and help prevent additional instances of identity theft.
  • Consider requesting an Identity Theft Passport provided by the Attorney General’s office.
  • Respond immediately to any IRS notification.
  • Continue to pay taxes and file tax returns, even if it must be done by paper.

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 Fall for Calls about Fake Water, Electric or Gas Bills

Don’t Fall for Calls about Fake Water, Electric or Gas Bills

Wed, Jan 23, 2019

Scammers are recycling an old con to scare Arkansans into turning over prepaid debit cards or wiring money to pay off an unpaid utility bill. The Arkansas Attorney General’s office has received over 100 reports since the first of the year of con artists posing as utility company employees threatening to shut off utility services due to an unpaid bill.

“Arkansans should be skeptical of unsolicited calls in which the person is demanding immediate payment over the phone claiming that a water, electric or gas bill is late,” said Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “I urge Arkansans to hang up and reach out to the utility company directly using the number on their last bill or the company’s website to determine the status of their bill.”

Attorney General Rutledge released the following tips to ensure payment is sent to the utility company safely, securely and timely:

· Add the utility payment due date on a calendar when the bill is received.

· Drop off the payment at the utility office or an authorized payment location.

· Pay online on the utility company’s website with a credit card or call the company directly.

· Consider participating in an automated bank account draft system, if it is offered.

· Mail the payment to the company directly.

The scam involves Caller ID spoofing to make the name of the utility company display on the phone’s screen. Be cautious of unsolicited calls and consider hanging up and finding the company’s phone number from an independent source and calling them to confirm any outstanding balance.

Arkansans should notify the company if they have been contacted by one of these scammers. If Arkansans have turned over money to the scammer, file a complaint with the Attorney General.

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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Shimming Shocks Chip-Enabled Credit Card Users

Shimming Shocks Chip-Enabled Credit Card Users

Wed, Jan 16, 2019

Scammers have found a way to duplicate chip-enabled credit cards, despite the extra safety design associated with the cards. Shimming is a new technique in which scammers insert a paper-thin device into the dip-and-wait slot on card readers. The “shim” is enabled with a microchip and flash storage to copy and save information from the credit or debit card.

“Credit and debit cards with the chip protect the user’s identity more than the magnetic strips,” said Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “The chip creates a unique transaction code that cannot be used again. Unfortunately, scammers continue to evolve their tactics and can now use the information they obtain from the shim to create a version of the card featuring a magnetic strip, which is still accepted by many retailers, especially online.”

Attorney General Rutledge released the following tips to avoid falling victim to shimming:

· Utilize contactless tap-and-go feature on your credit or debit cards instead of “dip and wait” card slots on ATMs and gas pumps.

· When utilizing a card at the gas pump, use a credit card instead of a debit card as credit cards are not tied to a bank account.

· When using an ATM, be sure to cover the keypad when entering the PIN.

· Avoid outdoor ATMs, and either see a bank teller, utilize an indoor ATM or ask for cash back on a purchase in order to obtain cash.

If consumers believe that their card number has been shimmed, contact the card issuer immediately, monitor accounts to watch for fraudulent charges and consider checking credit reports to watch for new inquiries, high balances or new accounts.

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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Arkansans Risk Higher Costs with Refund Anticipation Loans

Arkansans Risk Higher Costs with Refund Anticipation Loans

Wed, Jan 9, 2019

Arkansans risk higher costs when using refund anticipation loans as a resource to plan for a tax refund this year. Some businesses are even offering refund anticipation loans (RALs) or refund anticipation checks (RACs) to offset the costs of larger purchases, but the interest rates offered may use more of the refund than expected.

“Refund anticipation loans and checks are just that, the anticipated amount of the tax refund,” said Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “A tax refund could be larger than anticipated, it could also be much smaller and leave consumers on the hook for the rest of the cost of the purchase. I encourage Arkansans to practice patience and wait for the government to issue any refund.”

Attorney General Rutledge released the following considerations before agreeing to have taxes prepared as part of a refund anticipation loan:

  • Free or low-cost options such as the online Internal Revenue Service (IRS)
  • 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 any agreement or requesting tax preparation assistance.

RALs are high-interest loans that must be repaid by the actual tax return proceeds, essentially borrowing the buyer’s own money. If the actual tax refund amount is less than estimated, the buyer is on the hook for the difference. RACs may be attractive to some consumers because businesses often waive tax preparation fees, but many Arkansans can obtain free tax preparation services.

The IRS provides a Free File program online that is a federal tax preparation and electronic-filing program for taxpayers who earn less than $66,000. 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 it provides.

Arkansas’s “Refund Anticipation Loan Act” requires rates to be posted and clearly stated for all consumers to see, and, among other requirements, it requires a written statement to consumers explaining the loan or check-issuing process. Those offering Refund Anticipation Loans are prohibited from charging additional fees or requiring consumers to take out such loans in exchange for tax services.

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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