Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette issued a warning to Flintwater.com, a website advertised as a charity raising money to aid the Flint water crisis, for potential charitable solicitation violations on Thursday.

The website was using logos from United Way, Pure Michigan, Flint Water Response Team and the American Red Cross without permission from the organizations or notification of their use, according to Schuette’s office. 

Earlier last week, Schuette issued a consumer alert to the public warning them to be vigilant for potential charity scams in relation to Flint. He urged people to be cautious of websites asking for personal information and checks to make sure the organization is listed on the attorney general’s website as a registered charity.

Andrea Bitely, communications director at the Michigan attorney general’s office, said both state Sen. Jim Ananich (D-Flint) and United Way, a local charity, alerted the office of the potential scam.

“Jim Ananich and the United Way both called our office and let us know what was going on,” she said. “We sent them a cease and desist. They can’t have those up.”

Pam Smith, president of United Way of Washtenaw County, said the organization does everything it can to prevent such scams, but often has to rely on individuals informing it of potential violations.

“We do the very best we can to protect our brand,” she said. “Anybody can grab a logo shot off the Internet, so we rely on our donors, our volunteers and the general public to let us know.”

Smith said after learning about the misuse of their logo, the organization took the necessary steps immediately to have it removed.

“Once we were made aware of that, we immediately filed a cease and desist order,” she said. “The logo was taken down the same day.”

According to Bitely, the Michigan attorney general’s office said their responses to potential scams depend on the nature of the issue.

“If it’s similar we will do another cease and desist. If it’s a door-to-door scam we encourage the public to call law enforcement,” she said referring to Flintwater.com

Many individuals both locally and nationwide have been donating bottled water and funds to support the citizens of Flint, including several groups on campus.

The Black Student Union started a water drive in January through a GoFundMe page. LSA senior Christopher James, BSU mass communication chair, said BSU is working directly with organizations they know and people within Flint to ensure the money they raise goes to the right places.

“We’re working with places directly within Flint, instead of trying to go online,” he said. “We are going to the city, talking to people, making phone calls to make sure everything is legit before we set foot and give money to any organization.”

James said he was upset that people would try to take advantage of the plight of Flint’s citizens, but not surprised.

“Obviously, I’m upset about it, but I can’t expect anything less,” he said. “Bad things happen every day, and it is what it is. You just have to pray that the good outweighs the bad.”

 

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