Attorney General Alerts
ATTORNEY GENERAL ALERT: Impostors are Working Hard to Avoid Work by Stealing Arkansans’ Unemployment BenefitsThu, Jul 2, 2020
LITTLE ROCK – States have had to adapt quickly to the keep their residents safe from COVID-19 and worked hard to ensure economic resources are easily available. In recent weeks, the Arkansas Attorney General’s Office has received complaints from Arkansans receiving notices that they had applied for unemployment benefits when they had not in fact applied for benefits. In other cases, consumers have received the unemployment funds and are then contacted by the scam artist claiming that a mistake has occurred and asking the consumer to forward the proceeds to them.
“My office has received almost 200 complaints from Arkansans who have had their personal information used to fraudulently apply for unemployment by scam artists,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “We have been working with the Arkansas Department of Workforce Services and financial institutions in order to assist consumers in stopping unlawful payments and preventing additional identity theft.”
The unemployment application process is typically an in-person application process, but the COVID-19 pandemic and the need for social distancing has created a new online procedure that requires only a name, date of birth, social security number, and employer verification. This abbreviated procedure, while safer and more simple for applicants, has also meant that scam artists who have fraudulently obtained this personal information on consumers from prior data breaches and identity theft can apply for unemployment benefits on unwary consumers’ behalves.
Attorney General Rutledge advises consumers who suspect that their identity has been used to apply for unemployment benefits should immediately:
- File a police report and then contact the Arkansas Department of Workforce Services’ fraud hotline at 501-682-1058.
- Report the fraud to your employer.
- Obtain new copies of their credit reports from the three major credit reporting agencies (i.e., Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian) to confirm that no additional lines of credit have been opened in his or her name and consider requesting a fraud alert or a security freeze in order to prevent additional fraudulent activity.
- If a victim of financial identity theft, apply for an identity theft passport with the Arkansas Attorney General’s Office by submitting a copy of a police report and other relevant information. Identity theft passports are designed to assist consumers in proving their true identities.
Consumers are advised that if you receive funds that you did not apply for and that you were not expecting, do not accept them. Instead, report the matter to the Arkansas Department of Workforce Services at 501-682-1058 and to local law enforcement. Even if you did not request the funds, accepting such funds as part of an unemployment scam is unlawful.
ATTORNEY GENERAL ALERT: Businesses Target Hispanic Communities to Fraudulently Sell COVID-19 TreatmentsWed, Jun 24, 2020
LITTLE ROCK – As the pandemic continues and Arkansans attempt to get back on their feet, scam artists see opportunity uncertainty the virus has caused. A new scam has been identified by the Attorney General Leslie Rutledge’s Office seeking to target the Hispanic population in Arkansas where businesses are charging exorbitant amounts of money for COVID-19 tests and for “immunity boosts” that will prevent or treat COVID-19, with no credible proof from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Centers for Disease Control (CDC) or the Arkansas Health Department.
“Snake oil salesmen are taking advantage of vulnerable Arkansans by using fear to sell their expensive immunity boosts with some over $3,000,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “When a vaccine is approved by the federal government, the information will be shared far and wide, but until then Arkansans are urged to avoid anyone peddling fake, expensive COVID-19 cures.”
Rutledge is currently investigating Arkansas companies, including chiropractic and medical practices, that are peddling preventatives, treatments and cures for COVID-19 that are not approved by the FDA. These are often advertised as “immunity boosting” treatments. Unfortunately, there are currently no cures, treatments, lotions, or potions to treat COVID-19.
Attorney General Rutledge has offered the following tips for consumers about fraudulent COVID-19 cures and treatments.
- Avoid paying exorbitant fees for COVID-19 tests. Instead, visit the Arkansas Department of Health’s website to find locations of mass testing and clinics offering COVID-19 tests at no cost to consumers.
- Be cautious of health providers who claim they can cure, prevent, or lessen the effects of COVID-19 while charging high fees for their false claims.
- For questions about COVID-19, including where to find testing locations, call the Arkansas Department of Health at 1-800-803-7847.
- Find accurate information about COVID-19, including information about how it spreads, symptoms, prevention and treatment, what to do if you are sick and frequently asked questions, on the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s website.
ATTORNEY GENERAL ALERT: Federal Government Sending Prepaid Debit CardsFri, May 29, 2020
LITTLE ROCK – The U.S. Department of Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has announced that they have begun to release Economic Impact Payments in the form of prepaid debit cards, instead of the paper checks many were anticipating. In accordance with the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, the assigned amount of funds will be placed on prepaid debit cards and sent out to eligible taxpayers.
“My Office has received numerous calls from concerned Arkansans who have recently received the Economic Impact Payments in the form of a prepaid card,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “Arkansans should know these prepaid cards in a plain envelope from Money Network Cardholder Services are actually from the federal government.”
If you receive an Economic Impact Payment Card, it will arrive in a plain envelope from “Money Network Cardholder Services.” The free prepaid cards are issued with detailed instructions on how to easily activate the card. Recipients can transfer the funds from card to an existing bank account without any transaction fees. Funds can also be withdrawn at the ATM, but a transaction fee may apply. The prepaid card can be used anywhere Visa is accepted and provides fraud protections for consumers. Each card gives cardholders the ability to check their balance online, on the mobile app or over the phone without incurring fees.
Rutledge provides the following tips when activating the prepaid card:
- Follow the directions provided with the prepaid card and visit EIPCard.com to activate the card.
- When activating the card, make sure to have a secure PIN number and do not share the number with anyone.
- Watch out for sites requesting your card number and PIN.
- Use the EIPCard.com site to search for surcharge-free ATMs, view the fee schedule and cardholder agreement information.
For more information about Economic Impact Payments, visit the IRS website at www.irs.gov/coronavirus/economic-impact-payment-information-center. If you suspect online phishing scams related to the Economic Impact Payments, contact the Arkansas Attorney General’s office at (800) 482-8982 or oag@ArkansasAG.gov or visit ArkansasAG.gov.
ATTORNEY GENERAL ALERT: Hang up on Paycheck Protection Loan ScammersWed, May 27, 2020
LITTLE ROCK – Scam artists are contacting local business owners by email and phone, pretending to be affiliated with the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), a loan program administered by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) under the CARES Act. While these loans have been the lifeline for many businesses and their employees, the scams can result in even greater losses and financial peril.
“These paycheck protection loans are a key part to our economic recovery to assist hard working Arkansas businesses and their employees,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “But, it is shameful and illegal to pose as a government entity to provide false and deceptive services to businesses that are trying to use the paycheck protection loan to survive.”
Scam artists look for ways to turn a business’s or consumer’s cash into their own. Often, government-assistance programs like the PPP provide an obvious and easy target. Scammers use these governmental initiatives by pretending to be an SBA-authorized lender or similar loan program by telephone or email. In email, scammers will impersonate legitimate websites and use email addresses by changing one or two letters in the name. By telephone, scammers sometimes utilize illegal robocalls as a way to reach business owners and consumers. In both situations, scam businesses are seeking upfront payment of fees.
Attorney General Rutledge has identified tips for Arkansans to use when contacted by email or phone regarding a paycheck protection loan:
- If you get an email that looks like it is from the SBA or your bank, do not click on any links. Instead, go directly to the organization's website for information;
- The government will never ask you to pay up front and it will not call to ask for your Social Security, bank account or credit card number;
- Be cautious about companies that offer to expedite or facilitate your ability to get PPP loans. If you are considering using an online provider or lender, stick with those you already know and trust;
- Be wary of companies you've never heard of or that call or send you emails out of the blue; and
- Check the spelling of email and website addresses, as scammers frequently utilize addresses that appear similar to legitimate ones in order to deceive.
ATTORNEY GENERAL ALERT: Antibody Testing Marketed to Have Exaggerated CapabilitiesWed, May 13, 2020
Says, ‘take advantage of Arkansans during the pandemic by making unsubstantiated claims about COVID-19 related tests will be identified and prosecuted’
LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas is gradually opening the door and life is slowly going back to normal, but Arkansans are looking for ways to protect their families as well as neighbors and friends while reconnecting. Antibody tests, or serology tests, are thought to be a useful resource to identify asymptomatic individuals, for those who have recovered from COVID-19 or who may have had COVID-19 and recovered, but were never tested. However, any antibody tests on the market claiming to accurately determine antibodies may be exaggerating the tests’ capabilities to diagnose COVID-19.
“Arkansans are being thoughtful as they reconnect with their loved ones, but are also considering the risks to those in the most vulnerable populations,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “Those who are trying to take advantage of Arkansans during the pandemic by making unsubstantiated claims about COVID-19 related tests will be identified and prosecuted.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “serologic test results have limitations that make them less than ideal tools for diagnosing people who are sick. Depending on when someone was infected and the timing of the test, the test may not find antibodies in someone with a current COVID-19 infection.”
Attorney General Rutledge has identified tips for Arkansans to use when considering antibody testing:
- Antibody tests should not be used to diagnose someone as currently sick with COVID-19; you should contact your health care provider if you suspect active COVID-19
- Most health insurance pays for COVID-19 testing if a person has symptoms or has been exposed
- Do not believe advertisements for vaccinations or medications to prevent or treat COVID-19 that are not recommended by the CDC or your health care provider
- Tests should be administered by a health care professional – there are no approved or reliable take-at-home antibody tests
- Do not disclose personal or financial information to an unknown person or on an unfamiliar website or social media because it could result in identity theft or fraud
- Paying a lot of money does not make a test more accurate or keep you safe from COVID-19
ATTORNEY GENERAL ALERT: Scammers Attempt to Extort Arkansans into PayoutThu, Apr 30, 2020
Says, ‘Criminals are using old or similar passwords to illegally extort Arkansans’
LITTLE ROCK – While social distancing, Arkansans have been taking precautions and staying at home, which means more time spent online. As a result, scam artists are using tactics to extort money from Arkansans by threatening to release compromising photos. To dupe the recipient of an extortion email, the scammer may print the consumer’s email password or use high-pressure tactics to get them to pay right away. These actions are not only a scam, but also a criminal offense.
“Criminals are using old or similar passwords to illegally extort Arkansans into sending large sums of money to scam artists,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “Anyone threatening or using high-pressure tactics to force payment is perpetrating a scam, and any Arkansan receiving such communications should cease contact immediately with the scammer and call my office.”
Attorney General Rutledge along with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has provided these tips for Arkansans using the internet while social distancing.
- Do not open emails or attachments from unknown individuals.
- Monitor your bank account statements regularly, and your credit report at least once a year for any unusual activity.
- Do not respond to unsolicited email senders or click on phishing links, outdated information or give personal information through email.
- Do not store sensitive information online or on your mobile devices.
- Use strong passwords containing numbers and symbols, and do not use the same password for multiple websites.
- Never provide personal information of any sort via email. Be aware that many emails requesting your personal information appear to be legitimate.
- Ensure security settings for social media accounts are activated and set at the highest level of protection.
- Verify the web address of legitimate websites and manually type the address into your browser for greater protection.
For more information, or if you believe you have been a victim of criminal extortion file a complaint with the FBI at www.ic3.gov or contact the Arkansas Attorney General’s office at (800) 482-8982 or oag@ArkansasAG.gov or visit ArkansasAG.gov.