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Attorney General Alerts

CONSUMER ALERT: Research New Year’s Resolutions

CONSUMER ALERT: Research New Year’s Resolutions

Wed, Dec 27, 2017

LITTLE ROCK – Resolving to improve your fitness in the new year is a popular resolution, but Arkansans need to make sure they don’t get taken advantage of while trying to trim down after the holidays.

“The new year always seems like the perfect time for a fresh start,” said Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “But we still need to keep our guard up and thoroughly research gym membership options to find the right fit for our specific needs. Taking a little extra time to find the perfect place will make our personal goals easier to reach in 2018.”

Attorney General Rutledge released the following tips for Arkansans to consider if you think a gym is the best choice for you:

  • Visit the gym during the hours you would normally use it to see if it is overcrowded. Notice whether the facilities and equipment are clean and well-maintained.
  • Consider the hours of operation when deciding on a gym membership.
  • Ask if the facility provides instructors or trainers. Many gyms will provide trainers for an additional cost.
  • Find out if the membership offers fitness classes and childcare and if they are included or require additional costs.
  • Inquire about the fees and schedule and if the facility requires a contract and auto-draft payments.
  • Ask about trial periods. Is there a time to sample the services and equipment for free and without any obligation to join?

Many gyms offer incentives to join during this time of year, but be cautious of high pressure sales tactics or opportunities that seem too good to be true. Do the math to ensure the monthly and annual costs are affordable. And make sure everything discussed with the sales representative is stated in the written contract before signing on the dotted line.

Carefully review the cancellation terms of any gym contract prior to joining it. The Arkansas Health Spa Consumer Protection Act requires gym contracts to allow consumers to cancel a membership within three days of signing the contract and their money must be refunded within 30 days of cancellation. Consumers may also cancel a membership due to death, permanent and total disability or moving more than 50 miles away from the gym location, unless another location exists with the same company at the consumer’s new residence location.

The office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion encourages adults to do aerobic physical activity about 30 minutes, five times per week, and muscle-strengthening activities at least two days per week. StateofObesity.org recently released new data for 2016 and Arkansas is tied for the third most obese state in the country, with a 35.7% obesity rate.

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.

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CONSUMER ALERT: Getting the Most Out of Gift Cards

CONSUMER ALERT: Getting the Most Out of Gift Cards

Wed, Dec 20, 2017

LITTLE ROCK – Consumers should always be aware of the hidden costs of gift cards, including inactivity fees and expiration dates that may render the card worthless. That information should be clearly disclosed on the card or its packaging and both givers and recipients need to read about each card to make sure they do not miss out on a portion of the money on the card.

“Many of us look for the perfect gift for family and friends, and sometimes that is a gift card,” said Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “Gift cards allow recipients to select their own gift or go out to eat without the burden of spending their own money. But recipients also have a responsibility to make sure they keep track of the card and get the most out of the gift.”

Attorney General Rutledge released the following tips for consumers who are planning to use a gift card:

  • Read the card’s terms and conditions. Check for an expiration date or fees.
  • If it appears that the value of your card has expired or that fees have been deducted, contact the card issuer. It may honor the card or reverse the fees.
  • Ask the person giving you the card for the card’s terms and conditions, the original purchase receipt or the card’s ID number. Keep this information in a safe place.
  • Use your card as soon as you can to avoid misplacing or forgetting about it.
  • If your card is lost or stolen, report it to the issuer immediately. Some will not replace lost or stolen cards, but others will for a fee. Expect to show proof of purchase and the ID number on the card.

Meanwhile, when purchasing a gift card, buyers should use only trusted sources, consider the financial condition of the retailer or restaurant and keep the original receipt so the recipient can verify the card’s purchase if it is lost or stolen.

If a recipient experiences problems with a gift card, contact the card issuer.

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.

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CONSUMER ALERT: Secret Santas Scamming Social Media Users

CONSUMER ALERT: Secret Santas Scamming Social Media Users

Wed, Dec 13, 2017

LITTLE ROCK – Most Arkansans believe the Secret Santa or Secret Sister exchanges seen all over social media are a fun way to interact with friends, but participating in these can often lead to identity theft or more. Each year these scammers have emerged in posting a request for other users to send a gift valued at approximately $10, in exchange for other gifts. But the scam convinces the user to disclose their name and address on social media, making it easier for criminals to obtain personal information.

“Scammers are clever and the Secret Santa and Secret Sister exchanges are no different,” said Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “These posts often start with the scammer and are reposted over and over by unknowing friends. But those who actually send gifts to the scammer are the ones who put their identity at risk by disclosing their personal information.”

Attorney General Rutledge released the following tips for consumers to avoid this holiday scam:

  • Consumers should never disclose their personal information to an unknown entity unless they know it to be a trusted source as such disclosures could result in identity theft or the opening of other accounts in their name;
  • It is unlikely that a consumer will actually receive gifts in response to such a scheme; thus, if something sounds too good to be true, then it probably is;
  • Consult the terms of use for Facebook and other forms of social media as they may prohibit schemes like this one;
  • Review guidance available from the U.S. Postal Service because it may be illegal;
  • Consumers should safeguard their banking and personal, financial information in order to prevent financial losses due to scams;
  • When using the internet, consumers should ensure that they are using a verified, secure, and encrypted website when sharing any personal or financial information online.

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.

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CONSUMER ALERT: Getting the Most Out of Gift Cards

CONSUMER ALERT: Getting the Most Out of Gift Cards

Wed, Dec 6, 2017

LITTLE ROCK – Consumers should always be aware of the hidden costs of gift cards, including inactivity fees and expiration dates that may render the card worthless. That information should be clearly disclosed on the card or its packaging and both givers and recipients need to read about each card to make sure they do not miss out on a portion of the money on the card.

“Many of us look for the perfect gift for family and friends, and sometimes that is a gift card,” said Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “Gift cards allow recipients to select their own gift or go out to eat without the burden of spending their own money. But recipients also have a responsibility to make sure they keep track of the card and get the most out of the gift.”

Attorney General Rutledge released the following tips for consumers who are planning to use a gift card:

  • Read the card’s terms and conditions. Check for an expiration date or fees.
  • If it appears that the value of your card has expired or that fees have been deducted, contact the card issuer. It may honor the card or reverse the fees.
  • Ask the person giving you the card for the card’s terms and conditions, the original purchase receipt or the card’s ID number. Keep this information in a safe place.
  • Use your card as soon as you can to avoid misplacing or forgetting about it.
  • If your card is lost or stolen, report it to the issuer immediately. Some will not replace lost or stolen cards, but others will for a fee. Expect to show proof of purchase and the ID number on the card.

Meanwhile, when purchasing a gift card, buyers should use only trusted sources, consider the financial condition of the retailer or restaurant and keep the original receipt so the recipient can verify the card’s purchase if it is lost or stolen.

If a recipient experiences problems with a gift card, contact the card issuer.

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.

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CONSUMER ALERT: Hanging Decorations With Care

CONSUMER ALERT: Hanging Decorations With Care

Wed, Nov 29, 2017

LITTLE ROCK – Injuries and accidents are common while stringing lights, lighting candles and making homes look festive for the upcoming holiday season. Accidents interrupt the fun of the season if consideration is not used when decorating to avoid common mistakes that could cause injury or destruction.

“The holiday season is a time to focus on family,” said Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “Small mistakes can lead to large problems if we forget to make safety a priority. Most accidents are avoidable if we take extra time during preparations this year.”

Attorney General Rutledge released the following tips for Arkansans planning to hang lights this holiday season:

  • Select lights with labels indicating they have been safety tested by independent laboratories.
  • Check each set of lights. Look for broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires or loose connections. Discard or repair, if necessary, before use.
  • When using lights outdoors, make sure they are certified for outdoor use and are securely fastened to protect against damaging winds.
  • Only use insulated staples or hoods to affix lights. Never use nails or tacks.
  • Do not use more than three standard-size sets of lights per extension cord, and ensure that each extension cord is rated for the intended use.
  • Always turn off or unplug when you go to bed or leave your home.
  • Never use electric lights on a metallic tree.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that candles were the source of 6,500 residential fires annually between 2010 and 2012. To avoid fires caused by candles, never leave a candle unattended and keep them on a stable surface and away from items that can burn easily, like trees decorations, curtains and furniture.

Use caution when climbing ladders and make sure all locks are properly engaged, keep your body near the middle of the step and face the ladder while climbing. Avoid using the top step of the ladder unless it was designed of that purpose.

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.

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CONSUMER ALERT: Scammers Still Scaring Arkansans with IRS Con

CONSUMER ALERT: Scammers Still Scaring Arkansans with IRS Con

Wed, Nov 22, 2017

LITTLE ROCK – Scam artists are back to scaring Arkansans into believing the IRS is sending law enforcement to track them down. But this time the criminals are making more specific threats of suspending business or driver’s license, according to the IRS.

“The IRS is never going to call you demanding immediate payment on back taxes,” said Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “These scam artists often spoof the caller ID to make it look as though the IRS is calling, and even sound like an authentic IRS agent. But rather than making unsolicited phone calls, the IRS will mail multiple notices and never ask for personal or financial information.”

The IRS recently reminded consumers how they can easily recognize scammers who call. Consumers should know the IRS will not do the following:

  • Call demanding immediate payment. The IRS will not call if you owe taxes without first sending you a bill in the mail.
  • Demand that taxes are paid without providing the individual the opportunity to question or appeal the amount owed.
  • Require a payment of taxes a certain way. For example, demanding a payment with a prepaid debit card.
  • Ask consumers for a credit or debit card numbers over the phone.
  • Threaten to bring in police or other agencies to arrest you for not paying.

The IRS strongly recommends Arkansans who receive these threatening calls not give out any personal information and hang up immediately, contact the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at (800) 366-4484 to report the call and file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. The agency also requests that any scam emails be forwarded to phishing@irs.gov.

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

For more information about other common scams and consumer-related issues, call the Arkansas Attorney General’s office at (800) 482-8982 or visit ArkansasAG.gov or facebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.

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