Beware of scammers in Flint as a result of the water crisis
From charging residents for water filters to fake charities, there are people trying to take advantage of the crisis in Flint.
February 26, 2016 - Author: Elizabeth Martinez, Beth Martinéz, Michigan State University Extension
It seems that whenever there is an opportunity to capitalize on someone else’s misfortune, con artists will find a way to make a quick dollar. The crisis over the water in Flint is no exception. Since the issue hit the national news, three main types of fraudulent scams are surfacing in and around Flint.
- Selling fake water filters for profit.
- Home and business repair services
- Fake charities
How would you know if someone was trying to sell you the wrong water filters? A big warning sign is if someone comes to the home claiming to have the required filters for a fee. There are many agencies and organizations helping the citizens of Flint. Anyone coming to the home unannounced to sell something that effected residents can usually get for free or for a small fee may be a scammer. In addition, there are specific types of water filters to use that are approved by the National Sanitation Foundation.
In addition, with so much information available regarding what needs to be done to make the water safe to use, there are still individuals and companies selling home repairs as “necessary” to unsuspecting residents of Flint. At this time, no one is required to do home improvement repairs to their home to make the water safe. Any unsolicited offers or quotes to do home repairs should be very carefully checked out. Beware of uninvited visitors selling services or repairs you didn’t ask for and may not need. Also be wary of an individual claiming to be a government employee on an unannounced visit or telling you to switch to their water service. Don’t make any quick decisions about any repairs, either. A reputable company will give you time to make a decision and to check them out to make sure they have a reputation of performing quality work at a fair price.
There are many great non-profit agencies collecting both goods and monetary donations. Before deciding who to donate to, check out just how much of your contribution is going to help the citizens of Flint. Most donations are given in the first 90 days after a disaster so another thing to consider is waiting a few months to contribute. In addition to non-profits, many local churches are working to assist area residents, especially in the Hispanic community.
With all of the problems surrounding the Flint area, many residents are concerned about the value of their homes and what to do if they need assistance with their mortgage. Both Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae have announced that they are willing and ready to work with Flint residents experiencing hardships with paying their mortgage due to increased expenses arising from the water crisis. If your mortgage is not backed by either of these agencies and you need assistance with your mortgage, please contact a HUD or MSHDA housing counselor for assistance. A certified housing counselor will not charge you for helping prevent mortgage foreclosure nor will they make promises they cannot keep. To contact an expert in your area, visit the website or call 888-MSUE4MI (888-678-3464).
There are many great resources now available to the citizens of Flint that are free of charge and with no strings attached. Residents should beware of offers that sound “too good to be true” but help is there. In addition to financial advice, Michigan State University Extension has established a website on fighting lead exposure to help people cope with the water crisis. The following resources have been vetted by MSU Extension:
- Fight Lead Exposure – The new MSU Extension page with links to MSU Extension news articles and educational resources about lead.
- MSU Pediatric Public Health Fund – This MSU fund will support a new effort to find and evaluate interventions for the children of Flint affected by lead exposure.
- Flint Volunteer Reception Center – The center is designed as a central point of contact for all volunteers and those needing volunteers in Flint.
Michigan State University Extension offers financial literacy and homeownership workshops throughout the year to help you become financially healthy. For more information of classes in your area, go to either the events webpage or MI Money Health. Additionally, you can take the Financial Health Survey at MI Money Health to access if you’re financially healthy and discover more ways you can improve your financial health.
Michigan State University Extension has released a new toolkit for homeowners who are experiencing or have previously experienced foreclosure. This toolkit will equip these individuals and families with tools to help them recover their financial stability, in the case that a recovery of their home is not possible. The toolkit is available to download free at the MI Money Health website.