Attorney General Alerts
ATTORNEY GENERAL ALERT: Don’t Get Conned During Tornado Clean-UpTue, Mar 31, 2020
Says, ‘to stay alert and use caution as they begin the clean-up process’
JONESBORO – Northeast Arkansas is now in the clean-up phase after a tornado devastated the area. While many Arkansans may want to help their neighbors clean up and rebuild, con artists will seize the opportunity to take advantage of this vulnerable moment.
“Home repair scams are common following severe weather and in these already difficult times can place additional strain on Arkansans when repairs aren’t completed as promised,” said Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “I urge all Arkansans to stay alert and use caution as they begin the clean-up process.”
Due to Governor Hutchinson’s disaster declaration on March 28, 2020, the Arkansas price gouging law is in effect for the Jonesboro area for 30 days for any materials necessary to recover from this disaster. The new ban on price gouging is in addition to the ban related to the COVID-19 public health emergency that is ongoing. Goods cannot be up-charged 10 percent more than they were did before the emergency declaration. If they are, businesses and individuals can face criminal charges and fines up to $10,000 per item. Consumers should report suspected price gouging to the Attorney General’s Office at ArkansasAG.gov/covid19.
Attorney General Rutledge released the following tips to ensure Arkansans hire a reputable contractor to complete home repairs:
- Beware of door-to-door solicitors selling home-repair work. To find someone reputable, ask friends or family who have recently used a home-repair contractor or professional. Consider contacting the Arkansas Contractor’s Licensing Board to verify that the contractor is licensed and has not had any complaints filed against it.
- Avoid any home-repair solicitor who asks for an upfront payment or who will not provide you with a written contract.
- Get at least three written estimates. A reputable contractor or professional will never try to pressure you to obtain your business.
- Obtain and check at least three references from your contractor or professional.
- Check with the Attorney General’s office or the Better Business Bureau to find out if the company has a complaint history.
- Obtain a written and detailed contract that includes the grade, quality, name brand and quantity of any materials to be used. The name and address of the contractor must be on the contract.
- Avoid paying for the entire job up front. One-third paid in advance, one-third paid halfway through the job and one-third paid upon completion is a better plan, helping assure that your project will be completed. Never make the final payment until you have had an opportunity to inspect the work.
- Remember that all contracts resulting from a home-solicitation sale generally must include a buyer’s right to cancel within three business days after the contract is signed.
- Make sure all warranties and guarantees are in writing.
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: Scammers Create Frenzy with Fake Government ChecksWed, Mar 25, 2020
LITTLE ROCK – As Congress works to complete the COVID-19 economic stimulus package, con artists have also been working non-stop to identify new ways to take advantage of Arkansans concerned about the economy. These scammers impersonate government officials and reach out to Arkansans by phone, email or social media demanding the victims’ personal and banking information to verify their eligibility for the government’s stimulus check.
“Bad actors come out in bad situations and will do anything to make a quick buck on the backs of concerned Arkansans,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “The federal government will never reach out asking for personal and banking information in order to confirm your eligibility for payment.”
Attorney General Rutledge has provided the following tips to keep you and your pocketbook safe.
- Only rely on official government websites (.gov) for economic relief information.
- Never give out your personal information over the telephone or email.
- When information becomes available, the Attorney General’s website will direct you to reliable sources.
Arkansas residents encountering someone demanding personal information to receive federal funds or other assistance should immediately contact the Arkansas Attorney General’s Office by visiting ArkansasAG.gov or call (800) 482-8982.
ATTORNEY GENERAL ALERT: CDC and Other Health Officials are not Going Door-to-Door Performing TestsFri, Mar 20, 2020
LITTLE ROCK - While Arkansans are staying home in an attempt to prevent infection and spread of the COVID-19 virus, con artists are out and about going door-to-door targeting frightened senior citizens. Posing as employees of the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), these scammers knock on your door and offer to scan you for the COVID-19 virus at a cost of $50. These con artists, who are not licensed medical professionals, swab your nasal cavity and pretend to perform a medical test while you watch. To obtain your “test results,” the scammers ask for your banking information, including credit and debit card numbers, and social security number.
“It is unbelievable that con artists use the fear surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic to target Arkansans, especially senior citizens,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “The CDC and other health officials are not going door-to-door and performing tests. Arkansans should consult their trusted health care provider or the Arkansas Department of Health regarding COVID-19 testing.”
The Attorney General’s Office confirmed that the CDC is not going door-to-door for testing. Arkansas residents encountering someone at their door stating that they are there to test them for the COVID-19 virus should immediately call local law enforcement and file a consumer complaint with the Arkansas Attorney General’s Office.
ATTORNEY GENERAL ALERT: Thousands of Fake COVID-19 Websites Created to Take Advantage of ArkansansThu, Mar 19, 2020
Says, ‘must weed out these fake websites, only relying and sharing verified information’
LITTLE ROCK - While taking extra precautions to prevent infection and the spread of the COVID-19 virus, don’t forget to be safe online. Con artists have been creating thousands of websites daily, knowing that Americans are turning to the internet for news and information about this pandemic; making it a ripe place to infect your device, steal your information and spread malware.
“Arkansans must weed out these fake websites, only relying and sharing verified information from reliable sources,” said Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “Cyber criminals are spending time creating fake websites, emails and ads that look like they are from legitimate sources to take your money.”
Attorney General Rutledge has provided the following tips to protect Arkansans from con artists:
- Get information from well-known or government sources and websites that end in .gov. Resources include the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Arkansas Department of Health.
- Beware of requests that ask for your personal information, credit card information, social security number or banking information.
- Check the URL link for a "lock" icon before you proceed.
- Look for generic email greetings like “Dear Sir or Madam” and delete emails that insist you act now.
The Attorney General’s Office has created a page that links to state and federal government resource pages for COVID-19 at ArkansasAG.gov/COVID19. Contact the office with any questions or concerns at (800) 482-8982.
ATTORNEY GENERAL ALERT: Coronavirus Misinformation Spreading Faster than IllnessWed, Mar 4, 2020
LITTLE ROCK – Recent ads on social media are fueling fear surrounding the COVID-19 Coronavirus. Awareness of this virus, and any other contagious illness such as the flu, is imperative to helping slow down and stop the spread, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Basic hygiene, such as hand washing and staying home when sick, is more effective at preventing the virus than using facemasks. Some alarming ads on social media are giving false information on prevention and illegitimate cures.
“It is important to remain vigilant when avoiding any contagious illness, but some misinformation surrounding Coronavirus is causing undue panic and fraudsters are taking advantage of that fear,” Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge said. “Like any scam, don’t buy into this hysteria and get your facts from the experts.”
The Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) has activated an incident command center that has the authority to conduct testing and issue quarantine orders as necessary. The ADH updates information regarding tests performed and any positive cases in Arkansas on its website healthy.arkansas.gov.
Under President Trump, the U.S. Government is using its full resources to protect the health and safety of all Americans. Proactive measures have been taken such as travel restrictions, early containment strategies and the creation of the Coronavirus Task Force.
Recently, the U.S. Surgeon General encouraged people to stop buying masks because they do not prevent the general public from catching the virus. However, the absence of masks could keep healthcare workers, who are in contact with numerous viral infections, from getting the protection they need.
For the most accurate and up-to-date information regarding the Coronavirus, visit the CDC’s website at CDC.gov/COVID19.
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.