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Attorney General Alerts

Don’t Get Schooled by Credit Card Debt

Don’t Get Schooled by Credit Card Debt

Wed, Aug 8, 2018

LITTLE ROCK – Many young adults entering college or the workforce feel the pressure of looming bills and turn to credit cards to cover the initial costs but end up paying exorbitant rates long-term. Understanding that credit cards are not free and will only alleviate temporary financial burdens is an important concept for newly independent students. Accumulating credit card debt is avoidable; unfortunately, new users often fall victim to debt that hurts their ability to invest in personal pursuits like obtaining home loans and other financing in later years.

“Credit cards can be helpful but new users may not be fully aware of the costly terms and conditions,” says Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “Forgetting to make a payment or exceeding a card’s limit can be devastating to a consumer’s credit score, having a detrimental impact on long-term plans to buy a house or car.”

As preventative strategies to young adults interested in applying for a credit card, Rutledge offers this advice when using a card:

  • Submit payments on time. Making regular payments is the best way to improve a credit score and qualify for less expensive credit.
  • Pay the whole balance owed if possible. Although it may seem easier to pay the minimum, doing so costs more in the long run, and it will take much longer to pay off the debt.
  • Do not “max out” a credit card. Charging the full credit limit is risky, and it will affect a consumer’s credit score.
  • Do not respond to every tempting credit card offer. Using too much credit could lead to having uncontrollable debt.
  • Read the fine print as some credit cards include expensive annual fees and higher interest rates in exchange for incentives like airline miles and bonus points. Some credit cards offer other services such as lower annual percentage rates, insurance and other items at no cost.

To protect college students from coercive credit card companies and debt, the Arkansas General Assembly enacted legislation in 1999 that restricts the practice of marketing credit cards on college campuses.

College students are further protected by the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act, which restricts the marketing of credit cards on campuses nationwide. The advertisement of credit card within 1,000 feet of a college campus or university event is prohibited. In addition, consumers under the age of 21 are required to include a parent’s signature, further binding the parent or guardian to repay debt incurred by the account. Credit card companies are also forbidden from using gifts as a form of persuasion to bribe younger consumers into applying for a card.

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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Preparation Can Lower Cost of Expensive Back-to-School Shopping

Preparation Can Lower Cost of Expensive Back-to-School Shopping

Wed, Aug 1, 2018

LITTLE ROCK – Parents across Arkansas have been gearing up and saving money for back-to-school shopping, but supplies and clothes can be expensive, especially if parents do not take the time to price shop. From school supplies, to new gadgets and clothes, money quickly adds up.

“Back-to-school shopping can be stressful and financially straining for Arkansans,” said Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “But taking the time to compare prices, taking advantage of the best deals and only buying the necessities can save a lot of money.”

Attorney General Rutledge released the following tips for parents who are back-to-school shopping:

  • Stick to the teacher-approved school supply list. Do not waste time and money on unlisted, impulse items that may never be used.
  • Research prices ahead of time. Use price comparison apps or websites to check best available prices in real time. Or shop end-of-summer sales. Also consider that many stores will price-match better deals from other retailers.
  • Check school supply deals at supermarkets and scope out the office supply items before going to the back-to-school section. More items could be in stock for a better price.
  • For larger, more expensive items like sports equipment, electronics or musical instruments, consider buying used or refurbished.
  • Ask about and understand a store’s return policy, and recognize sometimes a box cannot be returned once it is opened.
  • If shopping online, only purchase items on a secure website. Determine whether a website is secure by looking for a “lock” icon in a browser’s status bar and the letters “https” at the start of the website’s URL.
  • Consider paying for online purchases with a credit card. Consumers are allowed under federal law to dispute those charges and cardholders may have no liability if a card is stolen fraudulently and used.

Some providers and companies offer student discounts on wireless service, cell phones, tablets and other electronics. Check with the provider to determine available discounts.

Arkansas’s sales tax holiday, which suspends state and local tax on certain school supplies and clothing, is Aug. 4 and 5.

According to the National Retail Federation, families spent nearly $84 billion in back-to-school and back-to-college spending last year. Meanwhile, they estimate $685 in spending per child in grades K-12.

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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Fake Military Charities Steal from Arkansans

Fake Military Charities Steal from Arkansans

Wed, Jul 25, 2018

LITTLE ROCK – Scammers have been stealing money from Arkansans by posing as veteran charities and requesting charitable donations. These scams result in money paid to the pockets of scammers rather than the veterans charities that rely on them. Last week, Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge announced a new donor education campaign partnership with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and all 50 states. Operation Donate with Honor was launched to help consumers recognize charitable solicitation fraud and identify legitimate charities. In addition to the new campaign, the Arkansas Attorney General’s Office also offers advice to distinguish between fake and real charities.

“Con artists are savvy and may use names similar to already existing, trustworthy charities,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “If Arkansans know the correct questions to ask, a scam can usually be spotted. This new partnership is one more way to get the word out and ensure that Arkansans’ hard-earned money is actually helping veterans and our brave service men and women.”

Attorney General Rutledge released the following tips to help consumers ensure an organization’s legitimacy before giving money:

Rutledge and the FTC have released a video to highlight tips on how to research charities on giving wisely to veterans organizations.

In 2015, Rutledge launched the first-ever Military and Veterans Initiative at the Attorney General’s office to assist active duty military service members, reservists, veterans and their families with consumer-related issues and many other collaborative efforts.

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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GI Bill Available for Military Members Receiving Higher Education

GI Bill Available for Military Members Receiving Higher Education

Wed, Jul 18, 2018

LITTLE ROCK – Current or former military service members should not fall prey to unnecessary high-interest education loan offers. Instead, America’s brave men and women can take advantage of the Forever GI Bill.

“The Forever GI Bill helps veterans and active duty service members continue their education and learn new skills for job opportunities,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “Many of these men and women put their education on hold to serve our country, and this GI Bill ensures that educational opportunities are available when the time is right.”

Attorney General Rutledge has announced that there are many types of programs available under the GI Bill, such as:

  • Undergraduate and graduate degree programs
  • Vocational/technical training
  • Licensing and certification reimbursement
  • National testing reimbursement
  • Entrepreneurship training
  • Flight training
  • Correspondence training
  • Work-study programs
  • Tuition assistance
  • Tutorial assistance

Active duty service members can additionally receive tiered amounts of benefit payments. Those who have served a minimum of 36 months after Sept. 10, 2001 are eligible for 100 percent tuition coverage or up to $21,970.46 per year at a private or foreign school. In addition, the Yellow Ribbon Program is available to service members to make up any difference in cost.

Members must have served at least 30 days of continuous active duty and be discharged due to a service connected disability or served an aggregate of 90 days of active duty and received honorable discharge to be eligible for the GI Bill. Service members who meet the criteria for this benefit have 15 years to use the aid. Reservists and Guard member are also eligible for the GI Bill and its recent amendments.

Benefits are also transferable to family members, including a spouse or child. If the service member has died in the line of duty on or after Sept. 10, 2001, his or her children may be eligible for additional benefits under the Marine Gunnery John David Fry Scholarship Program.

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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Protecting Military Service Members

Servicemembers Civil Relief Act Protects Military Service Members

Wed, Jul 11, 2018

LITTLE ROCK – Even some well-meaning Arkansans may not be aware of the protections granted to our brave military servicemen and women under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) of 2003. Federal laws protect active-duty servicemen and women and their families from potentially harmful civil legal matters. These protections cover insurance, mortgage payments, interest rates, leases, contractual arrangements and civil judicial proceedings.

“Our military men and women put their lives on the line to protect our freedoms,” said Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “Due to their unique needs and service obligations, Congress has implemented safeguards to ensure they have fewer worries at home while they are deployed. But it is important for all Americans to be aware of these protections.”

Attorney General Rutledge released the following tips as part of Military Consumer Month to help service members who need to take advantage of the many 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.

The SCRA limits mortgage interest to 6 percent during military service and up to one year after service ends. Unless a court intervenes, it prevents a mortgage creditor from selling, foreclosing or seizing an active-duty service member’s mortgaged property during service and up to one year 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.

In 2015, Rutledge launched the first-ever Military and Veterans Initiative at the Attorney General’s office to assist active duty military service members, reservists, veterans and their families with consumer related issues and many other collaborative efforts.

For more information and tips on how to avoid a scam, call the Arkansas Attorney General’s Office at (800) 482-8982 or visit ArkansasAG.gov or facebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.

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Military Consumer Month

Military Consumer Month

Tue, Jul 3, 2018

LITTLE ROCK – Scammers’ unrelenting tactics will even take advantage of America’s bravest heroes – our military service members. July is Military Consumer Month and aims to educate military families about potential deceptive practices that specifically target these families and their unique circumstances. In 2017, military consumers around the country reported 50,411 complaints, with nearly 30,000 of those complaints categorized as imposter scams.

“Fraudsters are always trying to steal, cheat and abuse the system,” said Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “But the scammers who specifically target the brave men and women who have risked their lives to protect our nation are particularly despicable. Having such a large military population living in Arkansas, I am working with statewide partners to better support service members and protect them from the con artists and scammers.”

In 2015, Attorney General Rutledge launched the Military and Veterans Initiative at the Attorney General’s Office to assist active duty military, reservists and veterans with consumer-related issues, veterans courts, the Hiring Heroes program and many other collaborative efforts.

Attorney General Rutledge shared the following list from the Federal Trade Commission of the most common complaints filed by service members nationwide.

  • Imposter Scams – 29,859 complaints filed
  • Telephone and Mobile Services – 3,564 complaints filed
  • Shop-at-Home and Catalog Sales – 2,509 complaints filed
  • Prizes, Sweepstakes on Lotteries – 1,905 complaints filed
  • Foreign Money Offers and Counterfeit Check Scams – 1,480 complaints filed
  • Internet Services – 936 complaints filed
  • Business and Job Opportunities – 601 complaints filed
  • Travel, Vacations and Timeshare Plans – 476 complaints filed
  • Grants – 428 complaints filed
  • Mortgage Foreclosure Relief and Debt Management – 376 complaints filed

Arkansas military service members, veterans and families should file complaints with the Attorney General’s Office on ArkansasAG.gov or by calling (800) 482-8982.

Military Consumer Month is a partnership between the Federal Trade Commission, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the Department of Defense and other state and local organizations.

For more information and tips on how to avoid a scam, call the Arkansas Attorney General’s Office at (800) 482-8982 or visit ArkansasAG.gov or facebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.

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