Flint Residents Should Be Aware Of Potential Water Crisis Scams

Contact: Andrea Bitely 517-373-8060

February 2, 2016

LANSING – Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette today offered praise and thanks for the overwhelming outpouring of assistance offered to Flint residents as they deal with the hardships caused by the tragic and unthinkable contamination of their drinking water, but noted that crises like these can also create opportunities for scam artists targeting families, senior citizens and small businesses.

As a result, Schuette’s Consumer Protection Division released a consumer alert to help Flint residents protect themselves, their families and neighbors by being aware of common scams attempted during crisis situations. The consumer alert offers tips on avoiding scam artists and criminals who may attempt to exploit emergency situations like the one in Flint.

"The outpouring of support and volunteerism in Flint is a reassuring sign of the warmth and compassion Michiganders have for one another, especially during a crisis, and I strongly encourage those in need to seek help,” said Schuette.  “But, even in these times of generosity and need, we must be aware of the common scams that could further hurt Flint families and those attempting to assist them.  That can be done with a few simple steps before taking action.”   

Schuette said two common scams involve charitable giving and home and business repairs.  While Michigan residents and small businesses are always at risk of these scams, this crisis may draw the attention of more scam artists than usual. Schuette cautions home and small business owners to remain on guard and to be thorough in asking questions of any unannounced visitors or salespeople during the continuing 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 here.
  • 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 found online.

Door-to-Door Sales and Repair Scams

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 877-765-8388.

A consumer alert with additional information and advice on choosing a building contractor or company for home remodeling and repair is available here.

File a Complaint

Complaints against a licensed builder may be filed with the Michigan Department of Licensing & Regulatory Affairs, Bureau of Commercial Services, Enforcement Division. Complaint filing instructions and complaint form are available online. 

Those who suspect fraud are also encouraged to report it to the FEMA Disaster Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721.

Other complaints may be filed with the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division:

Consumer Protection Division
P.O. Box 30213
Lansing, MI 48909
Toll free: 877-765-8388
Online complaint form