With spring cleaning just around the corner, Arkansas' Attorney General is warning we are in the prime season for consumer scams. He says beware of those who pull up to your home offering to rake your leaves or clean your chimney.
In a world where it'd be nice to trust everyone, you can't. Consumer scams run rampant around the globe, and there are plenty right here in Arkansas.
It's Attorney General Dustin McDaniel's job to keep us safe from scams. His staff works hard to uncover them, investigate them, and post alerts against them.
McDaniel says, "It really is kinda surprising to see people come up with creative ways to trick honest people out of their money."
McDaniel says the hottest scams right now are internet based. He says, "You gotta be careful with anything that comes unsolicited onto your email. As mom always said, 'If it sounds too good to be true it probably is.' I tell people all the time you don't know anyone in Ethiopia that wants to send to you a million dollars to your bank account."
Another biggie is the fake U.S. Treasury check scam, especially during tax season. McDaniel says scammers are reproducing the checks and mailing them to you.
McDaniel says, "Twenty years ago it would have been very difficult to reproduce a hologram or a multicolored check something that looks like it was issued by the federal government. Today you could do with stuff bought at office depot."
Another hot scam right now is the offer for a quick fix for your bad credit with scammers saying they'll fix your credit report for a fee.
The Attorney General says in this computer age anyone and everyone is a target for scammers; but if there is an age group more prone to scams it's seniors. That's why the University of Arkansas Co-Op Extension office teaches classes at the Faulkner County Senior Center on how to avoid scams.
Melanie Malone has taught scam classes for several years, and her highest demand audience has always been seniors.
Malone says, "When you get older you're more trusting. All your life you've been able to trust people. You can't do that anymore."
Malone tells her seniors to keep their guard up and offers many tips to protect themselves.
Here are just a few of them: protect your personal information, including social security numbers.
Deal only with legitimate businesses. Get key details in writing before agreeing to anything. Beware of deals requiring money up front and monitor your credit report.
Malone says, "I asked how many of you have checked their credit report and there were a lot that have never checked their report."
Seventy-six-year-old Virginia Naylor used to be trusting, until one day a man rolled up to her home offering to clean her gutters. Once he started working, he said her eve spouts also needed attention, and that her shingles needed replacing. Virginia says he kept asking for more and more money.
Naylor says, "He kept upping his prices, upping his prices. So I said I'm calling the police. I asked for his name and address so he and his wife got in the car and left. I didn't have to pay him and he'd already cleaned my gutters out."
Seventy-six-year-old Genell Epley also fell victim to a scam; hers was email based. She received a message promising $300 worth of coupons to Wal-Mart. She filled out the form, gave all her information, including her home phone number, and never got that $300, or heard from anyone about it. Instead, Genell started seeing unknown charges on her telephone bill.
Epley says, "There was $14.95 on there twice. That made my phone bill $76. Wal-Mart didn't even know anything about it. They were just using that to make you sign up. Wal-Mart will give you $300 if you sign up."
Virginia and Genell could have been taken for much more, but both eventually sensed something wasn't right and were able to get their money back. However, Attorney General Dustin McDaniel says to never let your guard down.
McDaniel says, "Every time we start to warn consumers about a scam out there the bad guys say well they're on to us there so we need to come up with a new twist and they do and we need to be on top of that as well. We try and stay ahead of the curve."
Consumer alerts about scams happening right now in Arkansas are continually posted on the Attorney General's website. Just click the link below the pictures.