web analytics

Tag Archive | "Attorney General Bill Schuette"

Consumer Alert: Smishing


 

Smishing, a blending of the words SMS and phishing, is when scammers send text messages pretending to be from trusted sources

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette announced this week that his Consumer Protection team has released a new consumer alert on “Smishing.” Smishing is when a scammer sends text messages to consumers appearing to be from a trusted source.

Smishing scams are like phishing scams for emails except they arrive as text messages. The scammer’s goal is for consumers to respond to the texts with personal information or to click on links that install malware.

“Dishonest individuals are always trying to find new ways to obtain our personal information,” said Schuette. “My Consumer Protection team continually works to stay current on the latest scams, so they can make sure Michigan residents are aware of these scams and know how to identify the scams and avoid them.”

With more than 20 billion text messages sent every day in the United States, a growing number of those are from thieves trying to scam consumers. Smartphone users are three times more likely to fall for fake text messages than computer users, therefore text message scams are on the rise. 

Common Smishing Scam

A common smishing tactic involves a text warning about a problem with one of your accounts and asking for your information to correct it.

In addition, some scammers, will pitch offers that seem too good to be true such as promises of free gifts and trips.

It is important to not respond to these texts, either by clicking on a link or providing information. You may download malware or become an identity theft victim.

The easiest way to avoid being scammed: delete the message.

How to Spot Smishing Scams

It is important to look out for the following: 

* A text message that appears to be your bank and states there is a problem with your account. A phone number is listed for you to call right away;

* A text message from an unknown sender asking for you to call a number, click on link or respond with personal information;

* A text message that reads: “REAL ROLEX 90% OFF, click here.”; and

* A text message that says, “click here,” enter “x,” or reply “stop” to opt out of future messages.

How to Prevent Smishing Scams

* Don’t respond to any suspicious numbers. Instead once you report it, delete the text and block the number;

* Don’t share your phone number unless you know the person or organization well;

* Beware of the fine print in user agreements for products or services that may use your phone number, like mobile apps and free ring-tone offers;

* NEVER follow a text’s instructions to push a designated key to opt out of future messages; and

* Report scam texts to the Federal Communications Commission online, by phone 888-225-5322; or by mail: FCC Consumer Complaints, 445 12th Street S.W., Washington D.C. 20554.

What You Need to Know

Neither the State of Michigan nor the federal government will contact you via text message. Federal law makes it illegal to send commercial text messages to a mobile device without the recipient’s permission. This law even applies if you haven’t put your name on a “Do-Not-Call-List.” Downloading apps and ringtones on your smartphone put you more at risk for your number to get in the hands of scammers. It is important to read the terms of agreement carefully before downloading anything to your device. 

REPORT FRAUD

If you are a mobile subscriber with AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon or Bell you can report spam texts to your carrier by copying the text and forwarding it to 7726 free of charge.

If you cannot use 7726, then consumers can report smishing texts to your service provider and the Federal Communications Commission

Learn more about robocalls, phone scams, and government imposters with our Consumer Education materials, including our Consumer Alerts on Michigan Telemarketing Laws and Telemarketing Fraud. 

To report a scam, file a complaint, or get additional information, contact the Michigan Department of Attorney General:

CONSUMER PROTECTION DIVISION

P.O. Box 30213 Lansing, MI 48909

517-373-1140

Fax: 517-241-3771

Toll free: 877-765-8388

To file a complaint online, go to michigan.gov/ag/ and then click on “about,” and then “duties,” and then “complaints.”

Posted in NewsComments (0)

Free credit freezes available to consumers


 

LANSING- Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette is reminding Michigan residents that effective June 17th, 2018, free credit freezes became available to all Michigan residents, according to a new state law.

“Following multiple security breaches that have exposed personal information of millions of Michigainians, I worked with the legislature to make sure that after a breach, it would not cost those exposed their hard-earned dollars when they weren’t at fault,” said Schuette. “I applaud our legislature for taking the important step to protect Michigan residents, and I encourage those who have been impacted and those who want to limit who has access to their credit reports to take advantage of our new zero-cost credit freeze law.”

A credit freeze is a temporary block on third parties’ ability to access a consumer’s credit report. Credit reporting agencies can no longer charge fees associated with freezing a consumer’s credit report. The benefit of freezing a credit report is that no one can sign up for a new financial service using your stolen information.

Protecting Michigan Consumers During the Equifax Security Breach

Schuette joined with more than 40 other states and the District of Columbia in an investigation of credit giant Equifax in September 2017. The investigation remains open.

If you are uncertain as to whether your credit was breached, Schuette encourages Michigan residents to go to www.equifaxsecurity2017.com to see if your information has been impacted.

Posted in NewsComments (0)

Be on alert for scammers after hurricane


 

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette is reminding Michigan residents to exercise caution in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. Unfortunately, whether it is selling a flood damaged vehicle or taking donations meant for disaster relief, scammers choose times of disaster to take advantage of hard working well meaning citizens.

“Hurricane Harvey has inflicted disastrous results on the state of Texas and we are thinking of all the individuals affected by the storm,” said Schuette. “It is important to remember that while storms like this can bring out the best in people, it can also bring out scammers who see a disaster as nothing more than an opportunity to make a quick buck. I encourage Michigan residents to protect themselves from post disaster scams.”

Schuette noted that the most common scams to happen after a storm of this nature are fake charities, and selling flood damaged vehicles.

Charitable giving scams

In the aftermath of a natural disaster, many individuals seek to donate to relief efforts and residents who have lost everything in the storm. However, scam artists use disaster tragedies to enrich themselves. These scammers exploit the sympathy of donors—perhaps with a name sounding both compassionate and legitimate or with a heart-wrenching appeal—to steal the donations or get consumers’ sensitive financial information.

Residents can avoid disaster scams and make a positive contribution to relief and rebuilding projects by doing a little research before making a donation. Follow these tips:

  • Be cautious of requests for donations by unfamiliar organizations or people.
  • Beware of unsolicited contacts and appeals on social media sites. Some leading relief charities now accept donations via cell phone, but unsolicited text messages, like unsolicited telephone and email communications, should be viewed with suspicion and handled with caution.
  • 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 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, but choose established charitable organizations with a history of helping those in need.
  • Before donating, search the Attorney General’s website to see if the organization is registered to solicit in Michigan. (Be aware that some legitimate charities, including the American Red Cross and Salvation Army, do not appear in the Attorney General’s database because they are exempt.)
  • The Attorney General’s website has additional information and advice on charitable giving. Citizens may call the Attorney General›s Charitable Trust Section at 517-373-1152 to check on a specific charity. To check on a police or fire organization, call 800-769-4515, toll-free

Protect yourself before purchasing a used vehicle

When flooding hits, hundreds of vehicles are damaged. Many will end up on the used car market. Vehicles with flood damage from a hurricane can be shipped across the country in a matter of days and appear for sale on the internet or at car lots, without any mention or obvious signs of the damage.

The National Salvage Vehicle Reporting Program, an independent third party standards body for the federal government’s comprehensive database on vehicle damage history, reports that thousands of water/flood damaged vehicles have been sold at auction, including some then resold without disclosure that they were flood-damaged.

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.

  • 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 https://www.vehiclehistory.gov/ 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). https://services2.sos.state.mi.us/automotivecomplaint/

Consumers may contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division at:

Consumer Protection Division

P.O. Box 30213

Lansing, MI 48909

517-373-1140

Fax:517-241-3771

Toll free: 877-765-8388

Online complaint form: https://secure.ag.state.mi.us/complaints/consumer.asp

Posted in NewsComments (0)

MDHHS Director and four others charged in Flint Water death


 

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette announced on Wednesday, June 14, that he has charged Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Director Nick Lyon, former Flint Emergency Manager Darnell Earley, former City of Flint Water Department Manager Howard Croft, Michigan Department of Environmental Quality’s Drinking Water Chief Liane Shekter-Smith, and Water Supervisor Stephen Busch, with involuntary manslaughter related to their alleged failure to act in the Flint Water Crisis.

Involuntary manslaughter is punishable by up to 15 years in prison, and/or a $7,500 fine.

In addition to the involuntary manslaughter charges, Schuette also charged Lyon with Misconduct in Office, a felony, subject to 5 years in prison and/or a $10,000 fine.

MDHHS Chief Medical Executive Eden Wells has also been charged with lying to a peace officer and obstruction of justice related to an alleged attempt to stop an investigation into the health crisis in Flint and later misleading investigators as to her actions.

INVESTIGATION INTERIM REPORT

With more than a dozen people now having been charged, and pre-trial hearings and other legal proceedings occurring, Schuette released the initial results of the more than yearlong investigation. Included in the report is a look at today’s and past charges made, as well as a review of the facts and evidence in the case. (You can find the report by clicking on this link – Flint-Water-Interim-Report.pdf)

DEFENDANTS 

Multiple Flint-area residents died of Legionnaires’ disease in the time immediately following the switch from Detroit Water and Sewer Department to the Flint River. All defendants charged with involuntary manslaughter are charged in relation to the death of Robert Skidmore, 85, of Mt. Morris, Michigan. Skidmore died of Legionnaires’ disease after many others had been diagnosed with the illness, yet no public outbreak notice had been issued. The charges allege failure to notify and lack of action to stop the outbreak allowed the disease to continue its spread through Flint’s water system.

NICK LYON – As the Director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, a position whose duties are outlined in the Michigan Constitution, Lyon has a duty to protect public health. The investigation has shown that Lyon allegedly received notice of a deadly Legionnaires’ Disease outbreak in Genesee County nearly one year before he informed the public.  After being informed about a potentially fatal health risk, Lyon allegedly deliberately failed to inform the public of a deadly Legionnaires’ Disease outbreak, which resulted in the death of Robert Skidmore.  Furthermore, Lyon allegedly participated in covering up the source of Genesee County’s Legionnaires’ Disease outbreak by repeatedly attempting to prevent an independent researcher from looking into the cause of the outbreak.

Charges: COUNT 1 – HOMICIDE – MANSLAUGHTER – INVOLUNTARY Did cause the death of Robert Skidmore on December 13, 2015, by failing to alert the public about a Legionnaires’ Disease outbreak in Flint, Michigan when he had notice that another outbreak would occur; contrary to MCL 750.321. [750.321-C] FELONY: 15 Years and/or $7,500.00. DNA to be taken upon arrest.

COUNT 2 – MISCONDUCT IN OFFICE Did between February 2015 and May 2017, commit misconduct in office, an indictable offense at common law, in violation of his duty to protect the health of the citizens of the County of Genesee, State of Michigan and to protect the public health enjoined upon him by the Michigan Public Health Code, MCL 333.5111(1); MCL 333.5111(2)(f);MCL 333.2251(1): MCL 333.2251(3); and MCL 333.20531 and the Critical Health Problems Reporting Act; contrary to MCL 750.505. [750.505] FELONY: 5 Years and/or $10,000.00.

EDEN WELLS – As the Chief Medical Executive of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, Dr. Eden Wells has a responsibility to protect the health and welfare of Michigan residents. During the course of the investigation of the Flint Water Crisis, it is alleged that Wells attempted to withhold funding for programs designed to help the victims of the crisis, and then lied to an investigator about material facts related to the investigation.

Charges: COUNT 1 – OBSTRUCTION OF JUSTICE Did commit the common law offense of obstruction of justice by knowingly providing false testimony to a Special Agent and by threatening to withhold funding for the Flint Area Community Health and Environment Partnership if the partnership did not cease its investigation into the source of the Legionnaires’ Disease outbreak in Flint, Michigan; contrary to MCL 750.505. FELONY: 5 Years or $10,000.  DNA to be taken upon arrest.

COUNT 2 – LYING TO A PEACE OFFICER – 4 YEAR OR MORE CRIME INVESTIGATION After being informed by Special Counsel Todd Flood, in the presence of Special Agent Arthur Wimmer, that they were conducting a criminal investigation, did knowingly and willfully make a statement or statements to the officer that he or she knew was false or misleading regarding the following material fact or facts relating to the investigation: the date she knew of the Legionnaires’ Disease outbreak in Flint, Michigan, and the officer was conducting a criminal investigation regarding involuntary manslaughter; contrary to MCL 750.479c(2)(c). [750.470C2C]. HIGH COURT MISDEMEANOR: 2 Years and/or $5,000.00.

STEPHEN BUSCH – Stephen Busch served as the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality District 8 Water Supervisor, a position which would have allowed him to order the Flint Water Treatment Plant be shut down because it was not producing safe water. In January of 2015, Busch was made aware of the Legionnaires’ Disease outbreak, yet he allegedly represented to the public that Flint’s drinking water was safe.

Busch was previously charged with felony Misconduct in Office, Tampering with Evidence, Conspiracy to Tamper with Evidence, and two misdemeanor counts for both a treatment and monitoring violation of the Michigan Safe Water Drinking Act.

Charges: COUNT 1 – HOMICIDE – MANSLAUGHTER – INVOLUNTARY Did cause the death of Robert Skidmore on December 13, 2015, by failing to alert the public about a Legionnaires’ Disease outbreak in Flint, Michigan when he had notice that another outbreak would occur; contrary to MCL 750.321. [750.321-C] FELONY: 15 Years and/or $7,500.00. DNA to be taken upon arrest.

LIANE SHEKTER-SMITH  – As the Chief of the Office of Drinking Water and Municipal Assistance at the Department of Environmental Quality, Shekter-Smith had the ability to order the Flint Water Treatment Plant shut down for failure to produce safe water.

Shekter-Smith was previously charged with a felony of Misconduct in Office and a misdemeanor charge of Willful Neglect of Duty.

Charges: COUNT 1 – HOMICIDE – MANSLAUGHTER – INVOLUNTARY Did cause the death of Robert Skidmore on December 13, 2015, by failing to alert the public about a Legionnaires’ Disease outbreak in Flint, Michigan when he had notice that another outbreak would occur; contrary to MCL 750.321. [750.321-C] FELONY: 15 Years and/or $7,500.00. DNA to be taken upon arrest.

HOWARD CROFT – As Director of Public Works for the City of Flint, Croft had the ability to mandate changes to the treatment processes at the WTP to ensure proper disinfection was occurring, or switch back to DWSD. Mike Glasgow, former Flint Water Treatment Plant Operator, was allegedly pressured by Croft to start using the Flint Water Treatment Plant. Croft’s alleged failure to treat the water properly contributed to the bacterial outbreaks found in Flint, including the legionella in the spring of 2015.

Croft was previously charged with felony False Pretenses and Conspiracy to Commit False Pretenses.

Charges: COUNT 1 – HOMICIDE – MANSLAUGHTER – INVOLUNTARY Did cause the death of Robert Skidmore on December 13, 2015, by failing to alert the public about a Legionnaires’ Disease outbreak in Flint, Michigan when he had notice that another outbreak would occur; contrary to MCL 750.321. [750.321-C] FELONY: 15 Years and/or $7,500.00. DNA to be taken upon arrest.

DARNELL EARLEY – As an appointed Emergency Manager for the City of Flint, Earley was tasked with ensuring the health and welfare of the City. During his terms as Emergency Manager, Earley contributed to the decisions that allegedly caused the death of Robert Skidmore by keeping the City on the water source even as it became obvious the source should be switched back to Detroit Water & Sewer.

Earley was previously charged with felony False Pretenses, Conspiracy to Commit False Pretenses, Misconduct in Office and a misdemeanor charge of Willful Neglect of Duty.

Charges: COUNT 1 – HOMICIDE – MANSLAUGHTER – INVOLUNTARY Did cause the death of Robert Skidmore on December 13, 2015, by failing to alert the public about a Legionnaires’ Disease outbreak in Flint, Michigan when he had notice that another outbreak would occur; contrary to MCL 750.321. [750.321-C] FELONY: 15 Years and/or $7,500.00. DNA to be taken upon arrest.

A criminal charge is merely an accusation and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.

Posted in NewsComments (0)

Tips to avoid tax scams


 

Attorney General Bill Schuette reminds residents that the IRS will never ask for personal information by phone or email

LANSING – With tax season entering full swing, Michigan Attorney General today issued an updated consumer alert with tips to avoid the latest tax scams and IRS related scams. The Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Team often sees an uptick in tax related scams during the early spring months.

“Tax season is the time of year that scam artists and crooks look forward to,” said Schuette. “Whether it is someone posing as an IRS agent, or as a tax preparer, you can never be too cautious with your personal information. If you believe you are the victim of identity theft, contact law enforcement immediately.”

Schuette noted that the IRS will never contact you asking for personal information by phone or email. Schuette encourages any residents who believe they have received fraudulent calls or emails to contact the IRS directly.

Below is a detailed list of things the IRS will never ask you to do:

*Demand payment without any chance to appeal or question the amount due

*Threaten to have you arrested

*Require a specific payment method, like a pre-paid debit card or wire transfer

*Ask for your bank account number

Phone Scams to Watch For:

*A high pressure call that threatens legal action which can only be avoided by immediate payment.

*A caller identifies themselves as an IRS employee and tells the targeted victim that they are eligible for a sizable rebate for filing taxes early if they submit bank account information for direct deposit of the rebate or refund.

*A person claiming to be an IRS employee indicates the IRS sent a check that has not been cashed and the IRS needs to verify the individual’s bank account number.

IRS Email Scams to Watch For:

*Using the official IRS logo.

*Using whole sections of text from the IRS’s website.

*Using a fake “from” address that looks similar to the IRS.

*Using forms with numbers similar to those the IRS already uses.

The IRS will never contact you via email so don’t be fooled.

What to Do if You Get an Email or Phone Call Claiming to Come From the IRS:

*If you don’t owe taxes, hang up immediately or delete the email without opening it. Report any suspicious solicitation to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration hotline at 800-366-4484.

*If you do owe on your taxes, call the IRS at 800-829-1040 if you need federal tax assistance.

*Do not click on any links embedded in a suspicious email.

*You may forward emails to phishing@irs.gov, the address established by the IRS to receive, track, and shut down these scams. Detailed instructions for how to send the emails are available through the IRS. You may not receive an individual response to your email because of the volume of reports the IRS receives each day.

*Report misuse of the IRS name, logo, forms, or other IRS property to the Treasury Inspector General hotline at 800-366-4484.

*The only genuine IRS website is www.irs.gov. You should never get to this site using a link embedded into an email. Instead enter the address in your browser. A website link embedded into an email can easily take you to a fake site.

For general consumer protection questions or complaints, you may reach the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division at:

P.O. Box 30213

Lansing, MI 48909

517-373-1140

Fax: 517-241-3771

Toll free: 877-765-8388

Online Complaint Form http://www.michigan.gov/ag

Posted in Tax TimeComments (0)

Former Survivor contestant sentenced 


Michael Skupin

Michael Skupin

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette announced that Michael Skupin, 54, of Farmington Hills, was sentenced to one to four years in prison by Oakland County 6th Circuit Court Judge Wendy Potts following his conviction of four counts of possession of child sexually abusive materials in November.

Once out of prison, he will have to register as a sex offender on SORA and is restricted from using a computer outside of work purposes.

He was also sentenced to pay restitution of $31,800 and probation for his financial crimes, with the first payments going to restitution.

“Today’s sentencing is a strong message to those who prey on children: no matter who you are or what you do, we will find you,” said Schuette. “The act of downloading and viewing images of children in sexually abusive situations is reprehensible. This behavior re-victimizes the child victims over and over.”

Skupin, a former contestant on the television reality show Survivor, was charged by Schuette in February 2016 with the counts of financial crimes of Larceny by Conversion and Racketeering as well as Possession of Child Sexually Abusive Materials.

An investigation began into Skupin after victims from his alleged Ponzi scheme contacted a local news reporter. Michael Skupin recruited investors and friends to take part in his “gifting scheme” called Pay It Forward. Victims made cash investments in the scheme. Their money would then cycle through a chart in which participants were eventually paid out of other new investors’ money. The scheme was discovered when eventually there were no new investors signing and most people in the scheme lost all of their money.

Skupin’s laptop was searched in conjunction with the Ponzi scheme investigation. During the search, investigators discovered images of underage children in sexual situations.

Posted in NewsComments (0)

Schuette encourages victims and witnesses of mistreatment in the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans to contact his office


Schuette makes his ongoing investigation public to encourage others to come forward with information 

LANSING–Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette is encouraging people who have resided in the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans during the last several years, or who may have otherwise been witness to patient mistreatment, to come forward with information that could help his ongoing investigation into the treatment of patients in the facility.

Schuette confirmed that his Health Care Fraud Division has been conducting an investigation into allegations of improper care at the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans since February 23, 2016. This followed the February 18, 2016 Michigan Auditor General report that indicated the facility was allegedly not properly taking care of the veterans residing in the home.

While the Department of Attorney General does not always confirm that investigations are ongoing, Schuette has made this investigation public in order to encourage those who may have been residing in the facility during the last several years, who may have been witness to or victims of mistreatment, to contact his office with information they may have. Mistreatment could be physical or financial in nature.

“The men and women who have served our country deserve the very best of care. They protected our country, and now we have the duty and responsibility to protect them,” said Schuette. “If you, or someone you know, were a resident of the Home, or spent time visiting and witnessed potentially criminal misconduct, I encourage you to contact my office immediately.”

The Grand Rapids Home for Veterans is one of two State of Michigan run homes for veterans.

Schuette encourages those with information about the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans to contact his Healthcare Fraud Division at 1-800-24-ABUSE.

Posted in NewsComments (0)

Attorney general speaks to Cedar Springs students


 

Michigan State Attorney General Bill Schuette with Cedar Springs students.

Cedar Springs students team with Schuette, Michigan State Police to tackle bullying, violence

By Judy Reed

Students walk the hallways at school every day carrying weights that others know nothing about. Some are victims of physical abuse, either at home or at school; some are being bullied by their peers; some are victims of sexting or date rape; and others feel like failures and are contemplating suicide or violence.

Cedar Springs High School and Middle School students kicked off a program last Thursday, April 14, that gives students a way to report and stop bullying and violence.

State Attorney General Bill Schuette was on hand, along with the Michigan State Police and local law enforcement, to kick off the OK2SAY program, a student safety initiative that enables students to confidentially report criminal activities or potential harm directed at students, school employees, and schools. Leaders from numerous community groups were also on hand for the presentation.

Since its inception in 2014, students have submitted more than 3,700 tips across the State of Michigan. Bullying, cyber bullying, self-harm, and suicide are the categories that receive the most tips. Other categories that receive tips include: drug use, weapon possession, and assault.

Based on research from the U.S. Secret Service, in 81 percent of violent incidents in U.S. schools, someone other than the attacker had knowledge of the attacker’s plan but failed to report it.

“OK2SAY is about communication, early intervention, and prevention,” said Michigan State Police Inspector Matt Bolger. “When students make the courageous decision to break the code of silence and speak out against harmful behavior, they equip authorities with the information needed to respond to threats and avert tragedy. That’s a good thing for Michigan schools, communities, and families.”

The goal of OK2SAY is to stop harmful behavior before it occurs by encouraging students (or adults) to report threatening behavior to caring adult authorities who can help. They can confidentially submit tips anytime by using the OK2SAY mobile app, online, email, texting, or by calling trained program technicians. Upon receipt of a tip, specially trained OK2SAY technicians address the immediate need and forward the information to the appropriate responding law enforcement agency or organization. Tips go to schools, local law enforcement agencies, community mental health agencies or the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

Schuette told the students and The Post that it is about changing the culture from “don’t be a snitch” to “it’s ok to communicate to save a life.”

“OK2SAY has made a difference. We are stopping violence in its tracks and making school a safer place for our kids,” said Schuette. “Credit for the program’s success is directly attributable to the thousands of student ‘heroes in the hallway’ who stepped up and took ownership of their roles in keeping their schools and classmates safe.”

“The thing that struck me about the program, is that it has saved lives,” Schuette told the Post. “It’s not perfect. But what we have done is reached out to say, here is an opportunity to help people stop bullying, to stop a weapon being brought to school. It’s tech friendly, confidential. It can be done without fear of intimidation,” he explained.

Students have several ways they can communicate a tip to authorities. They can download and use the mobile app for either iPhone or android; they can call 1-8-555-OK2SAY, 1-855-565-2729; Text: 652729 (OK2SAY); they can email ok2say@mi.gov; or visit the Web: www.ok2say.com fill out an online form.

Attorney General Schuette honored Assistant Superintendent of Teaching and Learning, Jo Spry, with a special license plate in a frame that reads “OK2SAY.”

Attorney General Schuette honored Assistant Superintendent of Teaching and Learning, Jo Spry, with a special license plate in a frame that reads “OK2SAY.” Photo by J. Reed.

The state program, which started in fall 2014, just happened to be inspired by our current Assistant Superintendent of Teaching and Learning, Jo Spry, before she came to Cedar Springs. Spry, who grew up in Greenville, was a principal at a school in Colorado, during the years after the attack at Columbine. Colorado adopted a program called “Safe to Tell,” and Spry said they adopted it at her high school in the Woodland Park District. “I knew the impact it had. It was a way for students to have that voice. They are not always comfortable coming forward,” she explained.

When Spry came home to Michigan, and settled in Cadillac, she began to work with legislators, the attorney general’s office, and community organizations to adopt a similar program here in Michigan. “I didn’t run across anyone who didn’t want it,” she said.

Schuette honored Spry during the program with a special license plate in a frame that reads “OK2SAY.” Spry did not know that was going to happen.

“It’s truly a passion of mine to make sure students in all of our schools are safe,” said Spry. “OK2SAY is a wonderful program, and I will be eternally grateful to the legislators, community groups and the attorney general that stepped up to see it through.”

Schuette explained that he does not often get to go to the kickoff of the programs. “We have a team of 35 of us that do this, and I go when I can,” he said. He seemed visibly pleased with the turnout of the crowd and the way that the program was embraced. “I think from the moment I walked in, and saw everyone, it was powerful and uplifting. It’s really a powerful tool. The more we can communicate this and get it out there, the better it will be.”

“School should be a safe and welcoming place for all students,” said Dr. Laura VanDuyn, Superintendent. “Cedar Springs Schools are committed to a bully-free environment. We are grateful that the Attorney General choose to visit our school to address our students and encourage them to step up and do the right thing.”

Attorney General Schuette poses with the new peer listening club. Photo by J. Reed.

Attorney General Schuette poses with the new peer listening club. Photo by J. Reed.

OK2SAY is not the only program being implemented to help students. The anti-bullying program in use at the elementary level, “Be Nice” is being moved up to secondary level, and a new peer listening club has been formed. The group was formed after senior Jessica Durrell heard about the program at a youth group she attended. She brought it back to her Rotary Interact Leadership group (another new program at the high school this year) and the peer listening group spun off into it’s own group. It is made up of nine members—six girls and three boys—who can listen to other students as needed during the day. “They will listen to peers who need to vent, talk about stressors, academics, etc.,” explained Dr. VanDuyn. “They are there to listen, not give advice.” Counselor volunteers have trained all the students.

For more information on OK2SAY, visit www.ok2say.com.

Posted in NewsComments (1)

Schuette reads to Beach 2nd graders


N-Attorney-General-Schuette-reads-Beach-2nd-Graders

Michigan State Attorney General Bill Schuette was in Cedar Springs on Thursday, April 14, for the kickoff of the OK2SAY program for the high school and middle school, and afterward he visited Amy Dood’s second-grade class at Beach Elementary to read “The Three Little Javelinas” to the students.

Thank you, Bill, for visiting and taking time out to read to kids!

Posted in NewsComments (0)


advert
Advertising Rates Brochure
Cedar Car Co
Kent Theatre
Ensley Team Five Star Realty

Get the Cedar Springs Post in your mailbox for only $35.00 a year!