Schuette Encourages Michigan Residents to Register for Consumer Education Programs
The Department of Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division offers a variety of seminars focused on keeping Michigan consumers safe and up-to-date on the tricks criminals are using to steal from consumers.
Programs on the following topics are available: Investment Fraud, Identity Theft, Online Safety, Home Repair and Improvement, Phone, Mail and e-Scams and In-Home Care and Senior Residences. The details of each event as well as an event calendar are listed on the Department of Attorney General website. All events are free and open to the public. To attend residents are asked to contact the venue to RSVP prior to the seminar. You can also request a Consumer Protection Education Presentation in your community by submitting an online request form.
To register your site for a presentation please complete the online registration form.
- Schuette Warns Michigan Residents to be on the Lookout for Flood-Damaged Vehicles When Purchasing a Car
LANSING – Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette today cautioned Michigan drivers searching for a new vehicle to be on the lookout for flood damaged cars, trucks and SUVs. Heavy rains in Metro-Detroit over the last day have likely damaged vehicles, and many will end up on the used car market. Vehicles with flood damage can appear for sale on the Internet or at car lots, without any mention or obvious signs of the damage.
“I urge anyone looking into purchasing a used vehicle in the near future to take extra time in examining their potential new car,” said Schuette. “While most auto retailers wouldn’t dare sell damaged vehicle, there are unscrupulous vendors who take advantage of the trust we place in those selling us cars.”
Water can damage vital parts of a car including airbag sensors, brakes, and electrical systems —and the damage may not show up right away. Weeks or months could pass before evidence of damage is known, putting the purchase past warranty and leaving a driver without a car.
Protect Yourself Before Purchasing
Have the vehicle inspected by an independent, competent automotive technician who has no relation to the seller. Since water damage can be hard to spot, paying an expert mechanic for an inspection is a good idea.
Check the vehicle history. Get the VIN (vehicle identification number) and trace its history through the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System database for a small fee. The National Motor Vehicle Information System is administered by the U.S. Department of Justice. Some consumers also choose to trace vehicle history using commercially available reports such as Experian’s Auto Check or CarFax. A vehicle history should tell you if the car has been in a flood region or issued a flood or salvage title. Remember though, these databases do not always have up-to-date or complete information about a vehicle (which is why the independent inspection is critical).
Be on the lookout for vehicles with tell-tale signs of being submerged in water. For example:
- Musty or "over-perfumed" smell or signs of mold or mildew;
- Water stains, mud or residue in the trunk, under the carpet, floor mats, gas and brake pedals, and in hard-to-reach places difficult to clean;
- Title or registration histories indicating the car was in a flood area;
- Car hesitates, runs rough, or shows signs of premature rust or corrosion in places where you wouldn't expect to see rust, such as the upper door hinges, trunk latches, and screws on the console.
- Always physically inspect the vehicle's paper title before you buy. Check to see if it has been branded as "flood," "junk," "salvage," "rebuilt" or another brand indicating the vehicle was severely damaged. But beware; a clean title does not prove the car is undamaged. The title may have been ‘laundered' across state lines or altered to conceal the brand.
File a Complaint
Consumers should file complaints against a used motor vehicle dealer with the Secretary of State, Bureau of Information Security, Regulatory Monitoring Division online or by contacting the Bureau of Information Security, Regulatory Monitoring Division at 888-SOS-MICH (888-767-6424).
Consumers may contact the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division at:
Consumer Protection Division
P.O. Box 30213
Lansing, MI 48909
Toll free: 877-765-8388
Online complaint form
- Schuette: Settlement with Discount Retailer Results in over $1 Million of Relief for Michigan Vets and Consumers
LANSING – Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette today announced a $95.9 million national settlement with retailer USA Discounters, which will bring over $1 million in restitution to 437 Michigan veterans and consumers. The settlement, which included 48 other states, resolves that, in collecting on consumer debts, USA Discounters engaged in abusive tactics, constantly contacted service members’ chains-of-command, and caused some service members to lose security clearances and face demotions.
According to the suit, USA Discounters sold overpriced household goods at high interest rates, often using the military allotment system to guarantee payment.
“This company saw an opportunity to take advantage of the hardworking men and women in our military to make an extra buck,” said Schuette. “Their illegal business practices negatively affected so many families and I am pleased that this settlement will reduce or cancel their debts to this company.”
USA Discounters sold consumer products, including furniture, appliances, televisions, computers, smart phones, jewelry and other consumer goods principally on credit. The company, which also operated as USA Living and Fletcher’s Jewelry, typically marketed to members of the military and veterans, advertising that military, veterans and government employees would never be denied credit for goods purchased from the retailer.
The 49 state Attorneys General alleged that USA Discounters engaged in unfair, abusive, false and deceptive acts and practices. The states also alleged that USA Discounters only filed its lawsuits in a few Virginia jurisdictions, no matter the service member’s location, deployment status, or residence. These unlawful business practices, the states claim, were secured through misrepresentations and omissions in advertising, during the loan’s origination, and during the collection process.
USA Discounters closed its stores in the summer of 2015 before later declaring bankruptcy.
USA Discounters agreed to provide relief by reducing or extinguishing the debts of certain former and current customers. The total estimated value to consumers for these restitution measures is approximately $95.9 million, primarily benefiting active and veteran service members. The approximate value of the restitution to consumers in Michigan is $1,116,529. This settlement is expected to impact 437 Michigan residents.
USA Discounters agreed to:
• Write off all accounts with balances for customers whose last contract was dated June 1, 2012 or earlier, and correct the negative comment from the company on those consumers’ credit reports (Approximately $71 million nationwide);
• Apply a $100 credit to all accounts whose contracts were dated after June 1, 2012, which were not discharged in bankruptcy, and correct the negative comment from the company on those consumers’ credit reports (Approximately $11,500 in Michigan)
• Write off all judgments not obtained in the correct state, and correct the negative comment from the company on those consumers’ credit reports (Approximately $1.1 million in Michigan);
• Credit all judgments that were obtained in the correct state against members of the military with a credit equal to 50 percent of the original judgment amount (Approximately $16,400 in Michigan);
• Pay a penalty of $40 million to the states. This $40 million penalty will be subordinated to all secured, administrative, priority, and unsecured claims that are allowed in the bankruptcy case.
• Notify all consumers whose accounts will be extinguished under this agreement, i.e., brought to a zero balance. The notice will be sent to the last mail or e-mail address known to USA Discounters. For any consumer that receives regular communications from USA Discounters, the reduction in the consumer’s account balance will be notated on the next communication.
Consumers who have questions about their USA Discounters accounts may contact the company directly at (800) 400-7291.
- Schuette: Human Trafficking Conference is an Opportunity to Build Awareness, Work to Protect Victims
ANN ARBOR – Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette today opened the Michigan Human Trafficking Commission’s first Fall Conference, which was held in partnership with the State Court Administrative Office and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.
The one-day conference featured several presentations, including law enforcement human trafficking case studies, panel discussions involving legislation designed to protect minor and adult trafficking victims, and a presentation highlighting a human trafficking court known as "CATCH", Changing Actions to Change Habits.
“It is often too hard to accept that in 2016 such an atrocious crime like human trafficking could be happening in our own backyards but this is our reality, and it’s much more prevalent than many think,” said Schuette. “Today’s conference is one more step forward in the fight against this crime. The more involvement on the issue, the more awareness is raised and together we can eradicate human trafficking in Michigan.”
The conference brought together judicial staff, protective services workers, prosecutors, attorney guardians ad litem, defense attorneys, law enforcement and victim service providers to collaborate on how to bring further awareness to and help eliminate the horrific crime of human trafficking.
“Today’s conference is one more piece in the puzzle in our efforts to combat human trafficking in Michigan,” said Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton, a commission member. “Human Trafficking will not be eradicated by one group alone but by bringing as many interest groups together as possible to address this issue in a coordinated manner. Through close collaboration between law enforcement, medical professionals, educators, social workers, and a host of other committed individuals, we will wage a strong fight against this horrible crime and we will give victims the opportunity to reclaim a normal life."
Background on Human Trafficking
Around the country, and right here in Michigan, children, women and men are forced into prostitution, domestic servitude and other labor for little or no pay, resulting from the use of force, fraud or coercion.
Demand for illegal activities, such as paid sex, fuels human trafficking. Trafficking turns sons, daughters, mothers and fathers into victims, permanently impacting the lives of those involved, their families and their loved ones.
Human trafficking is the second-largest and fastest-growing criminal industry in the world, after drug trafficking. Victims of human trafficking are in bondage through force, fraud or coercion, solely for the purpose of sex or labor exploitation. Children are especially vulnerable. According to the U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2,515 incidents of human trafficking were recorded nationwide between January 2008 and June 2010. Of those incidents, 1,016 involved the sexual exploitation of a child, 1,218 involved the sexual exploitation of adults, and 350 involved labor trafficking.
The next meeting of the Michigan Human Trafficking Commission will be on November 2, 2016.
For more information, please visit the Attorney General’s human trafficking webpage.
Attorney General Bill Schuette opens the Michigan Human Trafficking Commission’s first Fall Conference. The conference was co-hosted by the State Court Administrative Office and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.
- Schuette: Students at Plymouth-Canton's Liberty Middle School Join Growing List of OK2SAY Schools Across Michigan
CANTON – Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette today introduced the OK2SAY program to 6th graders at Liberty Elementary School in Canton. Schuette was joined at the presentation by Liberty Middle School Principal James Hunter, Plymouth-Canton Superintendent Monica Merritt and F/LT. Denise Powell from the Michigan State Police.
OK2SAY is a student safety initiative that acts as an early warning system in Michigan schools to prevent tragedies before they occur. Launched in 2014, the program encourages students to submit confidential tips trained technicians regarding potential harm or threats twenty-four hours per day.
“OK2SAY is making a difference with students in schools across Michigan. Students have a way to safe report something if they see or hear something that makes them uncomfortable without feeling like are being a snitch,” said Schuette. “I am happy to be at Liberty Middle School to spread the information about OK2SAY to more students. I am confident that with OK2SAY, every student in Michigan will be able to know about and use this great safety tool.”
In two years, OK2SAY has received nearly 5,000 tips in more than 30 categories. Top tip categories include: peer abuse, cyberbullying, suicide, and self-harm.
“Liberty Middle School students and staff are excited about kicking off the 2016-2017 school year with the OK2SAY program. We have made this program a key component to our school year as we continue to help students navigate the world of social media and the internet,” said Liberty Middle School Principal James Hunter. “Our school’s continued opportunity to collaborate with the Attorney General's office is a clear indication of a united commitment to keep the students in our community safe.”
Through the more than 2,100 tips received in 2015, OK2SAY has saved lives, prevented school violence, and provided help to many Michigan students in need of mental health or social services. In the 2015 school year, OK2SAY technicians received 23 tips regarding planned school attacks; 7 tips regarding guns; and 396 tips regarding suicide threats.
“This program empowers students to stand up and say something if they hear something,” said Schuette. “Whether it is avoiding a potential shooting situation or helping a student who is planning to take their own life, the bottom line is OK2SAY saves lives. It is as simple as that and it is tangible proof it is working.”
Fighting the Culture of Silence
OK2SAY is operated through a partnership between the Department of Attorney General, Michigan State Police, state agencies, schools, parents, law enforcement, and community leaders.
A U.S. Secret Service study reported that in 81% of violent school incidents, someone other than the attacker knew about the plan but didn’t report it. OK2SAY discourages the persistent culture of silence among students who fear being labeled a snitch. It gives a voice to students who might otherwise remain silent out of fear of retaliation or rejection.
The key features of OK2SAY include:
Confidential Reporting: State law protects the confidentiality of the reporter’s identity. The identity of the reporting party will not be disclosed to local law enforcement, school officials, or the person about whom a tip is offered, unless the reporter voluntarily chooses to disclose his or her identity. If the reporter is a minor, the parent or guardian must also consent.
Comprehensive Technology: Anyone can confidentially submit tips 24/7 using any of the five tip methods detailed below. Multi-media attachments like photos, videos, and links to additional information are encouraged.
Coordinated Intervention: Upon receipt of a tip, specially trained OK2SAY technicians at the Michigan State Police screen and forward tips to an appropriate responding agency including: local law enforcement, schools, local community mental health organizations, or the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.
Accountability: Each responding organization is asked to complete an Outcome Report detailing the nature of the tip, how the tip was handled, and whether the tip situation was resolved or requires ongoing attention. This provides local entities an opportunity to illustrate that student safety threats are tracked and taken seriously. The 2015 Annual Report details the types and numbers of tips handled throughout the year.
How to Submit a Tip
OK2SAY encourages confidential tips on criminal activities or potential harm directed at students, school employees, and schools. Tips can be submitted through the following ways:
Call: 1-8-555-OK2SAY, 1-855-565-2729
Text: 652729 (OK2SAY)
OK2SAY Mobile App: Available for download in app stores for iPhone and Android.
Attorney General Bill Schuette with 6th grade students from Liberty Middle School before today's OK2SAY presentation.
- Schuette Kicks off Flint-Area Michigan Harvest Gathering Giving Campaign at the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan
FLINT– Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette today kicked off the Flint-area Michigan Harvest Gathering Annual Giving Campaign at the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan. He was joined by Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton, the Michigan Secretary of State’s office, the Food Bank Council of Michigan, the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan, and the Michigan Health and Hospital Association. Schuette announced the Giving Goal for the 26th year of the campaign is to provide 2.1 million meals to Michigan families in need.
Prosecutor Leyton announced that Genesee County employees would be participating in the Michigan Harvest Gathering. In addition, Michigan Health and Hospital Association has already kicked off the giving campaign with a $30,000 donation to the Michigan Harvest Gathering. They were on hand today to present the donation.
“I am asking residents across the State of Michigan to make a donation to help their neighbors, whether it be buying a few extra things at the grocery store or donating money instead of buying a coffee in the morning. If everyone contributes a little, we can make a big impact,” said Schuette. “I want to thank the Food Bank Council of Michigan and Food Bank of Eastern Michigan for their partnership on this campaign but more importantly for the work they do every day to make sure Michigan families don’t go hungry.”
Michigan residents interested in donating will find food collection sites at every Michigan Secretary of State branch, as well as at state office buildings throughout the state.
Michigan Harvest Gathering Background
Michigan Harvest Gathering was founded in 1991 by Attorney General Bill Schuette and his wife, Cynthia. Partnered with the Food Bank Council of Michigan, Michigan Harvest Gathering’s campaign has provided over 54 million meals for those in need. Since the establishment of the Michigan Harvest Gathering, nearly 10 million pounds of food, and $10 million have been raised to stock the shelves and pantries of food banks across the State of Michigan.
To donate or find out more about the Michigan Harvest Gathering visit www.fbcmich.org. Families in need of assistance can call their regional food bank or dial 211 to learn who is serving food in their area.
From left: Michigan Health and Hospital Executive Vice President David Seaman, Michigan Secretary of State Chief of Staff Mike Senyko, Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton, Attorney General Bill Schuette, Food Bank Council of Michigan President Dr. Phil Knight and the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan President William Kerr at the the Flint-Area Michigan Harvest Gathering kick-off.