News/Events

Attorney General Alerts

Shining a Light on FOIA During Sunshine Week

AG Alert: Shining a Light on FOIA During Sunshine Week

Wed, Mar 14, 2018

LITTLE ROCK – The Arkansas Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) helps ensure government transparency and allows the public to hold government officials accountable for their actions. In conjunction with National Sunshine Week, March 11-17, Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge highlights the FOIA to educate Arkansans about their rights when it comes to government accountability.

“Arkansans can be assured that government officials are held to a high standard of transparency at every level, including state and local leaders,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “I am committed to ensuring our Freedom of Information Act is used consistently and in accordance with the law – transparency is key in holding government accountable to the people it serves.”

Arkansas’s FOIA was enacted by the General Assembly and signed into law by Governor Winthrop Rockefeller in 1967. It is considered one of the strongest and most comprehensive open-records and open-meetings laws in the United States.

Attorney General Rutledge released the following information regarding Arkansas’s FOIA:

  • The law gives Arkansas citizens broad access to public records and public meetings, with limited exceptions.
  • A public record is defined as any writing, sound recording, video or electronic or computer-based information that is required by law to be kept or is otherwise kept that reflects the performance or lack of performance of official functions.
  • All records maintained by public employees within the scope of their employment are presumed to be public records, although several exemptions may shield a record (or certain information in a record) from disclosure.
  • Government entities generally have up to three working days to provide a record requested under the FOIA.
  • Custodians of records may only charge for the “actual costs” of reproducing public records, plus mailing expenses. Employee time spent complying with a FOIA request is not a cost that can be charged.
  • When a governing body meets to conduct the people’s business, the meeting is a public meeting and is subject to the open-meetings provisions of the FOIA.
  • Notice of public meetings must be provided to anyone who has asked to be notified, and two-hour notice of special or emergency meetings must be provided to members of the news media who have requested notice of such meetings.
  • Governing bodies may only enter into closed meetings, also known as “executive sessions,” for the limited purposes of considering employment, appointment, promotion, demotion, disciplining or resignation of an individual officer or employee. But if any action is to be taken after the executive session, the governing body must reconvene in public and take a formal vote on the matter. Any governing-body action decided upon in an executive session without a public vote has no legal effect.

The Attorney General’s office partners with the Arkansas Press Association and other organizations to produce and distribute the “Arkansas Freedom of Information Handbook.” The Handbook’s 18th edition was published in October 2017. Free copies of the handbook are available at ArkansasAG.gov, or can be ordered by completing the short online form or contacting the Attorney General’s office at community@arkansasag.gov or 501-682-2007.

The Attorney General’s office recently presented an online webcast about the Arkansas FOIA.

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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Attorney General Alert: Top 10 Complaints of 2017

AG Alert: Top 10 Complaints of 2017

Wed, Mar 7, 2018

LITTLE ROCK – In conjunction with National Consumer Protection Week, March 4-10, Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge today announced the top 10 most common complaints the Attorney General’s office received in 2017.

“The Consumer Protection Division mediates all types of complaints each day,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “Attorneys and investigators work tirelessly on complaints on a number of common issues including: automobiles, timeshares, healthcare and utilities.”

The 10 most common complaint categories from 2017 were:

  • Sales of goods and services
  • Automobile sales, service, financing and repair
  • Credit repairs and other financial services
  • Satellite, cable and internet service providers
  • Home repair, construction and maintenance
  • Landlord/tenant and real estate
  • Health care
  • Wireless and landline telephone services
  • Utilities
  • Travel and timeshares

For the first time in five years, automobile-related transactions were not the most common type of complaint reported to the Attorney General’s office. The sales of goods and services was the top complaint category in 2017 and brought in 1,383 complaints. These types of complaints often involve problems when purchasing goods both in store and online, along with door-to-door sales.

The most common scam reported to the Attorney General’s office in 2017 was the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) scam, in which scam artists intimidate Arkansans by posing as the IRS and demanding payment immediately. To protect themselves, Arkansans need to remember that the IRS will never call and demand payment, require taxes be paid in a certain way, ask for credit or debit card numbers or threaten to bring police or other agencies to make an arrest for unpaid taxes.

In total, Attorney General Rutledge’s office resolved 7,229 formal complaints in 2017. File a complaint online at ArkansasAG.gov.

National Consumer Protection Week is a partnership with attorneys general from across the country, along with many national organizations, including the Better Business Bureau, Federal Trade Commission and American Association of Retired Persons, to encourage consumers to understand their rights and make educated consumer decisions.

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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AG Alert: Tax Time Tricks from Thieves

AG Alert: Tax Time Tricks from Thieves

Wed, Feb 28, 2018

LITTLE ROCK – With tax season in full swing, scammers are ramping up efforts to steal data from tax professionals and scam their clients. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) recently issued an identity theft warning indicating that thieves hack into a tax professional’s files, steal sensitive client information and file a tax return in that person’s name. While the money may go to your personal account – reports indicate some amounts are as much as $20,000 – the scammer has plans to impersonate the IRS and collect that money later.

“This scam is heating up as more Arkansans file their taxes,” said Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “Scammers gain access to a tax preparer’s data and file fraudulent tax returns. The thieves then pose as the IRS and threaten legal action if the money is not turned over to them immediately, usually in the form of a wire transfer or pre-paid card.”

Some victims receive threats of being turned over to the IRS collection agency, while others have been told that their social security number would be “blacklisted.” These are both scams and the IRS asks consumers who receive an erroneous refund to follow the established procedures listed below.

Attorney General Rutledge and the IRS released the following tips if Arkansans find a large refund in their name that they were not expecting:

  • If the erroneous refund was a direct deposit:
    • Contact the Automated Clearing House department of the bank/financial institution where the direct deposit was received and have them return the refund to the IRS.
    • Call the IRS toll-free at 800-829-1040 to explain why the direct deposit is being returned.
  • If the erroneous refund was a paper check and has not been cashed:
    • Write "Void" in the endorsement section on the back of the check.
    • Submit the check immediately to the local IRS location.
    • Do not staple, bend or paper clip the check.
    • Include a note stating, "Return of erroneous refund check because (provide a brief explanation of why the refund check is being returned)."
  • If the erroneous refund was a paper check and you have cashed it:
    • Submit a personal check, money order, etc., immediately to the appropriate IRS location for the amount deposited by the scammers.
    • If you no longer have access to a copy of the deposited check, call the IRS toll-free at 800-829-1040 and explain to the IRS assistor that you need information to repay a cashed refund check.
    • Write on the check/money order: “Payment of Erroneous Refund,” the tax period for which the refund was issued and your social security number.
    • Include a brief explanation of the reason for returning the refund.
    • Be aware that repaying an erroneous refund in this manner may result in interest due to the IRS.

The IRS has also encouraged tax preparers to increase their own security measures to avoid these data breaches. Tax preparers should consider consulting with a reputable data security consultant or provider in order to give greater protection to their customers.

The IRS encourages Arkansans with any questions about owed taxes to contact their office directly at (800) 829-1040.

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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AG ALERT: Scammers Guilty of Using Courts to Intimidate Victims

AG ALERT: Scammers Guilty of Using Courts to Intimidate Victims

Wed, Feb 21, 2018

LITTLE ROCK – Scammers continue to attack our communities by impersonating law enforcement officers across Arkansas. This time, consumers are falsely told that they have failed to report to jury duty and owe a fine. Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge encourages all Arkansans who receive this call to contact the local courthouse or clerk directly.

“Intimidation and impersonation are common practices for con artists,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “These criminals are becoming more brazen by offering consumers a badge number and spoofing their phone number to make the call look like it is coming from the courthouse. Scams may sound legitimate, but consumers should always confirm any information with their local courts before providing any information to the person on the other end of the phone.”

Attorney General Rutledge released the following tips for consumers who are contacted by these scammers:

  • Contact your local courthouse to ensure you are not on a jury duty list.
  • Contact local law enforcement and provide the name and badge number you received to verify the officer information and ask if you were contacted by that officer.
  • Court officials will not ask for your personal information such as social security number, address, credit card number or any other personal information. Verifying that information could lead to other scams or identity theft.

The scammers are reportedly asking for payment of the “fine” in the form of gift cards or prepaid debit cards. Once the code on the card is turned over, the criminal has control of the card value. Once the value is redeemed, the consumer cannot get the money back.

If consumers have questions contact the Attorney General’s office or your local U.S. Marshals 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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AG ALERT: Identity Thieves Phishing for Love

ATTORNEY GENERAL ALERT: Identity Thieves Phishing for Love

Wed, Feb 14, 2018

LITTLE ROCK – Any online activity increases our risk for identity theft, but with Valentine’s Day upon us the threat is higher than ever as more Arkansans take to dating sites and offer large amounts of personal information over the internet. Even a simple social media post – seemingly devoid of sensitive information – could lead hackers to potential passwords, which could in turn grant access to not only email but also financial information.

“Many of us use pet, family and street names as passwords, but these are not secure and can easily be hacked, ” said Attorney General Rutledge. “Once a password is compromised, thieves can gain access to countless forms of personal information and stealing your identity becomes easy.”

Attorney General Rutledge released the following tips to help Arkansans protect their identities:

If your identity has been stolen, file a police report and contact the Attorney General’s office for information on filing fraud alerts, requesting an identity theft passport and the next steps you should take.

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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AG Alert: Law Enforcement Imposters Threaten Arkansans

AG Alert: Law Enforcement Imposters Threaten Arkansans

Wed, Feb 7, 2018

LITTLE ROCK – Criminals have rapidly adopted a frightening new scam that could place all law-abiding Arkansans at risk by simply exploiting the trust we all place in law enforcement. Scammers are impersonating law enforcement officers and threatening Arkansans with arrest if they do not immediately pay money. Some scammers tell potential victims that they have failed to appear as a witness and a warrant for their arrest will be issued unless the victim sends a prepaid credit card. Other scammers threaten victims with arrest and deportation if they do not send money.

“Con artists are preying on our respect for the law enforcement community by posing as officers in order to intimidate Arkansans,” said Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “These criminals are reaching new lows and can be very convincing. If an Arkansan receives a call from a law enforcement officer, they should look up the phone number for that officer’s agency and call to speak with someone at the agency directly.”

Attorney General Rutledge released the following tips to help spot this scam and avoid falling victim:

  • Courts and law enforcement agencies do not seek or accept payment in prepaid gift cards.
  • If a consumer owes money, legitimate collectors must first send a written notice confirming the debt.
  • Consumers should not confirm or provide personal or financial information to an unknown person over the phone or internet.

Keep in mind that con artists do not follow the law and disregard the do-not-call registry. Technological advances allow for Caller ID spoofing, allowing scammers to disguise the source of the calls.

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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