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ATTORNEY GENERAL ALERT: January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month

ATTORNEY GENERAL ALERT: January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month

Wed, Jan 10, 2018

LITTLE ROCK – The White House recently declared January National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. The International Labour Organization reports nearly 21 million people worldwide are victims of human trafficking, including labor and sex trafficking of both children and adults. Human trafficking occurs when force is used to control another person for labor or sexual purposes and is considered a form of modern-day slavery.

“Human trafficking is not a crime that is only committed in other states or countries; it’s a crime that occurs in our hometowns across Arkansas,” said Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “We can all help to recognize and report suspected trafficking, potentially saving the lives of victims and penalizing those who commit such a heinous crime.”

The Polaris Project released the following red flags to spot a potential victim of human trafficking:

  • Is fearful, anxious, depressed, submissive, tense or nervous/paranoid
  • Exhibits unusually fearful or anxious behavior after bringing up law enforcement
  • Avoids eye contact
  • Appears malnourished
  • Shows signs of physical and/or sexual abuse, physical restraint, confinement, or torture
  • Has few or no personal possessions
  • Is not in control of his/her own identification documents like an ID or passport
  • Is not allowed or able to speak for themselves, a third party may insist on being present and/or translating
  • Claims of just visiting and an inability to clarify where he/she is staying/address
  • Lack of knowledge of whereabouts and/or do not know what city he/she is in
  • Loss of sense of time
  • Has numerous inconsistencies in his/her story

The Human Trafficking Hotline reports that Arkansans submitted about 20 potential human trafficking cases in 2017 on both the hotline and BeFree Textline. Arkansans can submit tips to the hotline at 1-888-373-7888 or via text to “BeFree” (233733).

For more information about the Arkansas Attorney General’s office, call (800) 482-8982, email consumer@ArkansasAG.gov or visit ArkansasAG.gov or facebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge.

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CONSUMER ALERT: Low Temperatures Equal High Heating Bills

CONSUMER ALERT: Low Temperatures Equal High Heating Bills

Wed, Jan 3, 2018

LITTLE ROCK – If the recent cold snap is a sign of what is to come this winter, Arkansans can expect higher than normal energy costs. The low temperatures mean furnaces are working overtime, and more money is draining from our pocketbooks to try to stay warm. But there are ways we can all save some money and beat high heating costs this winter.

“There are ways to save money, while still staying warm this winter,” said Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “Cold weather can impact a family’s bottom line which could impact another part of the budget. But just a few steps could help Arkansans stick to that budget.”

Attorney General Rutledge released the following tips to keep energy costs low throughout the colder months.

  • Use a programmable thermostat to automatically lower the temperature when no one is home. Some newer models can connect to smartphones providing access regardless of your location.
  • Seal cracks or holes around the home by weather-stripping doors and windows and adding insulation to walls, the attic and crawlspace to prevent loss of heat.
  • Set ceiling fans to spin clockwise to recirculate rising hot air.
  • Make sure baseboard heaters, air vents and radiators are unobstructed.
  • Service the heating system at least once a year to ensure it is operating properly.
  • Consult with a licensed plumber regarding potentially wrapping the water heater in a water heater insulating blanket and turning down the temperature to the warm setting to save money.
  • Close the vents and doors to rooms that are not being used.
  • Keep air filters clean and replace regularly.

Many Arkansans burn wood as a heat source, while other consumers heat with liquefied petroleum gas. Gas users should consider signing a long-term contract with a provider in order to lock in a specific price over a set period. Homeowners should also assess consumption needs and order propane refills prior to the current supply running out. Other heating sources like space heaters require caution and must be located away from flammable materials and can often impact energy costs. The Department of Energy reports that space heaters account for about 45 percent of energy bills in average U.S. homes.

Take caution of any products claiming to drastically lower heating costs and avoid unsolicited high-pressure sales calls or visits from contractors offering furnaces, windows, roofing and other home-improvement projects. Remember if it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is. Other tips and resources are available at EnergyEfficiencyArkansas.org, a partnership between Arkansas utility companies and the Arkansas Energy Office. You can also reach out to your electricity or natural gas provider to see if they have any programs to reduce weather-related heating costs.

For more information about navigating utility costs 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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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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