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Consumer Alerts

Million Dollar Giveaway? It May Be a Scam.

CONSUMER ALERT: Million Dollar Giveaway? It May Be a Scam.

Wed, Jan 18, 2017

LITTLE ROCK – Scammers are using the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s (AGFC) name to steal money from people across The Natural State. The Arkansas Attorney General’s office recently received complaints of Arkansans getting phone calls, often with a Jamaican area code, from someone claiming to be from the AGFC. The person receiving the call is told they are the winner of a $2.5 million giveaway. The only thing they need to do to claim their winnings is wire an $850 “processing fee.” This is a scam.

“Scammers know that pretending to be from a respected agency makes them more believable,” said Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “Arkansans must stay diligent and never wire money to someone they do not know. If you have to send money to get money, it is a scam.”

Attorney General Rutledge offered the following tips for anyone who receives this call or one similar.

  • A consumer should never have to pay something to receive a “free” prize. Be wary of anyone requiring payment in advance to obtain winnings.
  • Be cautious if someone asks that a fee be paid through a pre-paid credit card or by wiring money. If payments are made, the money may never be seen again. Legitimate organizations will accept standard and traceable forms of payments.
  • People who accept these offers become targets of other scammers when their information is shared or sold to others.
  • Never provide any financial account information to an unknown person or entity.
  • If the call is from a government agency, consider hanging up and calling the agency back on a phone number found on their website.

Although the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission does offer small prizes, such as free hunting or fishing licenses or fishing poles, they do not offer cash prizes. The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission encourages Arkansans who receive this call to file a complaint with the Attorney General’s office, and if there are any questions, AGFC can be contacted at 501-223-6300.

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 Protections for Military Families

MILITARY ALERT: Tax Protections for Military Families

Wed, Jan 11, 2017

LITTLE ROCK - Each year, many active-duty military families are taken advantage of when filing their taxes because they are not aware of the many protections available to them. The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) offers safeguards that include tax deferment and state tax relief for qualifying service members and many of those members have calling the Attorney General’s office to get more details.

“Military service can put many unexpected stresses on families,” said Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “But the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act is in place to protect them, and it is important for all service members and their families to know the specific protections provided, especially while preparing to file taxes annually.”

The following is additional information on SCRA tax provisions to remind active-duty military service members of protections available to them this tax season:

  • State tax relief: The SCRA provides that a nonresident soldier's military income and personal property are not subject to state taxation if the soldier is present in the state only due to military orders. For example, if your state of legal residence is Arkansas and the military sends you to Colorado, you will not have to pay Colorado’s state income tax on military earnings. However, income taxes may be charged on any non-military income earned.
  • Tax rates: The SCRA prevents states from using the income earned by a service member in determining a spouse’s tax rate when they do not maintain their permanent legal residence in that state.
  • Military spouses residency relief: This SCRA provision extends tax protections to military spouses who meet qualifying factors such as accompanying the service member to a duty station state. Income earned by the non-military spouse while in the duty station state is not subject to taxation in that state.
  • Tax deferment: If a service member’s inability to pay their taxes was caused by their military service, service members can defer owed taxes for up to 180 days after release from service.

The IRS provides a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program, which offers free tax help to military service members. Contact the nearest Armed Forces Legal Assistance Program office if you suspect SCRA rights were violated.

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

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

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Fake Tax Bills

Fake Tax Bills tricking Consumers

Wed, Jan 4, 2017

LITTLE ROCK – The Arkansas Attorney General warns that con artists are sending fake tax bills claiming to be from the IRS demanding immediate payment from Arkansans and threatening arrest if money is not sent. Consumers are being sent a fraudulent version of a CP2000 form for tax year 2015 as an email with an attachment or by standard mail requesting personal financial information and asking for payment via gift card, prepaid debit card or wire transfer.

“This new play on an old scam is another shameful attempt by criminals to steal Arkansans' personal information and hard-earned money,” said Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “If Arkansans receive one of these letters they suspect may be a scam, call the IRS at 1-800-829-1040. And as a reminder, the IRS will never make unsolicited calls to or requests through email or social media from taxpayers for personal information.”

The following tips can be used to spot a fake tax bill:

  • The CP2000 notices appear to be issued from an Austin, Texas, address
  • The letter or email says the issue is related to the Affordable Care Act and requests information regarding 2014 coverage
  • The payment voucher lists the letter number as 105C
  • The sender requests that checks be made out to I.R.S. and sent to the “Austin Processing Center” at a post office box.

According to the IRS, the form CP2000 does exist, but it is used when income reported from a third-party source does not match the income reported on the tax return. The fake form provides little, if any, instruction to taxpayers about appealing additional money owed, but the real form provides extensive information. And some versions of the scam include a “payment” link within the email, which could be set up to steal personal information, take money or infect the computer with malware. The real notice also requests checks be made out to “United States Treasury.”

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 Use Utility Bills

Scammers Use Utility Bills to Target Small Businesses

Wed, Dec 28, 2016

LITTLE ROCK – Scam artists are targeting small businesses and residential customers by altering caller IDs and claiming to be from a utility company stating that the customers have unpaid utility bills and the services will be shut off immediately if not paid right away. Customers who receive these calls should hang up and call their utility company using the phone number on their bill to verify the information. Customers should never make a payment or give out personal financial information to someone calling unsolicited and demanding immediate payment.

“Never give out any personal information over the phone,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “Arkansans should be skeptical if the caller requests immediate payment through nontraditional channels, like prepaid debit cards or wire transfers. Always be cautious of unsolicited calls and consider hanging up and finding the company’s phone number from independent sources and calling them to confirm any outstanding balance.”

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

· Add your utility payment due date on your calendar when you receive the bill.

· 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 draft system, if it is offered.

· Mail the payment to the company directly.

If you have been contacted by one of these scammers, notify the utility company. If you fall victim to one of these phone calls, file a complaint with the Attorney General.

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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Research Return Policies

Research Return Policies

Wed, Dec 21, 2016

LITTLE ROCK – We all know that our friends and family put a lot of thought into gifts this holiday season, but not every gift is a homerun. Sometimes clothes may be the wrong size, or we may already have that game, which leads us to exchanging or returning that new gift. But Arkansans need to research company return policies.

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge issued today’s consumer alert to help gift recipients, should gift returns or exchanges be necessary this holiday season.

“Some return and exchange policies are simple and can be taken care of quickly,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “But consumers should check with the company to find out the specifics of their policies beforehand. Some retailers allow shoppers to make returns regardless of the reason, which leads consumers to wrongly believe they are entitled by law to a full refund or credit at all retail outlets.”

Attorney General Rutledge released the following tips gift recipients need to make a return or exchange:

  • Ask the gift giver about the store’s return or exchange policy.
  • Keep all gift receipts.
  • Do not open the box or remove the tags if you may return it.
  • Some online retailers allow purchases to be returned in store, while others require the item be shipped back. Check with the company ahead of time.

Most companies offer in-store exchanges if the customer has the receipt and the item is promptly returned. However, others have an “all sales are final” policy for deeply discounted or clearance items and do not allow returns or exchanges. Return policies not only differ from store to store but can also differ for items purchased in-store and items bought online or by mail-order.

Some retailers that allow returns may charge restocking fees for certain products. Consumers can sometimes pay a fee of 10 to 25 percent of the price of the item if the package is not in the condition in which it was purchased. Meanwhile, items like computer software, CDs, DVDs and Blue-Ray discs are not generally returnable after the seal has been broken.

Retailers are not required to accept at-will returns, and even in the case of a defective product, consumers may be required to contact the manufacturer. Sometimes retailers will require consumers to deal with the product manufacturer directly, rather than simply returning the item to the place of purchase.

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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Financial Planning for Military Service Members and Families

Financial Planning for Military Service Members and Families

Wed, Dec 14, 2016

Military servicemen and women are tasked daily with protecting our freedoms, and the holiday season is no different. While these brave men and women face many of the same financial hardships as other families do, they also are confronted with unique challenges because of circumstances, like frequent relocations and deployments.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently unveiled a new website to help service members and their families manage their personal finances.

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge issued today’s consumer alert to educate military families as we enter a new year and plan a new budget.

“Financial planning can be difficult and overwhelming,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “But it can be even more cumbersome when military service members are receiving change of station or deployment orders. The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act protects these men and women from being taken advantage of. This new website provides a financial readiness toolkit and resources for best fiscal practices.”

Military.Consumer.gov, which is designed for mobile devices, provides information on the following topics to help military families manage their finances:

  • How to control spending
  • How to use military experience and benefits to increase earning potential
  • How to borrow, use credit and manage debt
  • How to save and invest to make today’s paychecks last into the future
  • How to protect money and financial and account information.

The FTC created Military.Consumer.gov by teaming up with the Department of Defense, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Military Saves and other agencies.

The website also provides tips for personal financial managers helping military servicemen and women prepare for the future.

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

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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