February 23, 2016
LANSING – In a continued effort to protect Michigan residents and especially the residents of Flint against charity scams, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette today issued a warning to the website FlintUnleaded.org and its owner Derek Jones, of Texas, due to potential charitable solicitations violations.
The warning addressed the lack of transparency regarding the persons or organization operating the website and warned against non-compliance with Michigan’s Charitable Organizations and Solicitations Act. Of particular concern, donations to the website purport to benefit a local nonprofit corporation, P.A.P.A.S. (Pick a Place and Start), but in 2015, that nonprofit was automatically dissolved by Michigan’s Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs and had its 501(c)(3) status revoked by the IRS--both actions resulting from the organization’s failure to file annual reports with the state and federal governments.
“The people of Flint must continue to be the focus of our efforts,” said Schuette. “Individuals who try and take advantage of the giving spirit of those attempting to help will not be tolerated and I will continue to be on alert for charitable scams relating to the Flint Water Crisis.”
Charitable Giving Scams
To help ensure the most of your charitable contribution is used to help Flint residents, take a minute to review the following steps:
Be cautious of requests for donations by unfamiliar organizations or people.
Beware of unsolicited phone calls, and text and email appeals on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter.
Crowdfunding and other types of internet giving can be tools of tremendous good, but as with any type of giving it can be abused, so it's important to proceed with caution when donating online. A consumer alert with additional information and advice on crowdfunding is available on the Department of Attorney General website.
Continue to reach out and help Flint residents but be sure to choose established charitable organizations with a history of helping those in need. The Michigan charitable giving database can be searched.
While not wanting to interfere with legitimate services or visits from governmental entities to your home or business, Schuette noted that another common scam is door-to-door sales of services such as home or business repair, or scammers imitating government workers, such as inspection services seeking to gain entrance to your home or business. For example, scam artists could approach a home owner with promises of repairing plumbing or restoring clean water service to a home. To avoid falling victim to con artists, make sure to take following precautions:
Beware of door-to-door solicitors. Be cautious when someone appears at your door without a previous connection to you or without you having contacted the business in question beforehand.
Don’t make any rushed decisions. Do your homework and check out any contractor before you pay them anything or sign any contracts. Do not feel pressured into signing any documents at your door. A legitimate business will give you time to consider a proposal.
Ask to see the ID of anyone who wants to enter your home or business. It is completely appropriate to check them out by calling the governmental authority or the company they claim to represent.
Do not let anyone remove your water meter, and do not pay anyone for promising “alternative” water services involving your home plumbing. Under the Flint City Code of Ordinances, unauthorized parties who tamper with city water system equipment may be guilty of a misdemeanor.
Check the company’s complaint history by calling the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division (toll free) at 1-877-765-8388.
Complaints may be filed with the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division:
Consumer Protection Division P.O. Box 30213 Lansing, MI 48909 517-373-1140 Toll free: 877-765-8388