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Rumors Regarding FEMA and Hurricane Sandy

Outline
Following a natural disaster, and especially one affecting a densely populated area as happened with Hurricane Sandy, it has become almost standard operating procedure for scammers and con-men to take advantage of the situation. 



Analysis
In the US, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is typically asked by affected states to coordinate response to major disasters.  (Note: FEMA does not just ‘show up’ – they have to be requested by the affected state’s governor).   In the confusion and distress following a disaster, scammers and con-men simply throw out the word FEMA in the (often correct) belief that victims will be so glad someone is there to help they won’t ask too many questions. 

There are no examples listed here simply because this covers a multitude of issues. 

The first to be addressed, and presently the most frequently inquired about, is a currently trending twitter post claiming that FEMA is hiring work crews to assist in clean up in the New Jersey area, offering food, shelter and $1000 a week pay.  It includes a phone number – but the phone number is to a St. Augustine, Florida residence.  Obviously, this is not legitimate.  In this case it could simply be a mean spirited prank; however, other similar scams have been outright scams to obtain personal information from respondents. 

FEMA has already set up a “rumor control” page related to Sandy, which has information on other currently spreading rumors.

There are a number of other scams and cons that have been trotted out following major disasters – without attempting to compile an exhaustive list, the following are some of the most egregious:

Charity Scams – fake charities making appeals for donations
Processing Fee scams – scammers posing as FEMA personnel requiring a fee to process someone for disaster assistance
Phony inspectors – housing inspectors falsely claiming to be from FEMA that then direct the owner to a specific contractor or request a fee for the service
Contractor scams – unscrupulous contractors demanding payment up front or directing the homeowner to a specific lender to borrow the money for repair work.

Sadly, the list could go on for quite a ways, but the primary message here is to be alert to possible scams.  The following links are certainly not an inclusive list of scams, but are intended to give the reader a sense of how prevalent these scams are:

http://www.fema.gov/sandy
http://www.fema.gov/news-release/louisianians-warned-watch-out-post-disaster-scam-artists
http://www.fema.gov/news-release/us-army-corps-engineers-warns-contractor-fraud
http://www.fema.gov/news-release/fema-warns-against-processing-fee-scam
http://www.fema.gov/news-release/fema-warns-possible-scams-illegal-activity-housing-sales-program
http://www.fema.gov/news-release/fema-warns-scams-targeting-evacuees
http://www.emergencyemail.org/newsemergency/anmviewer.asp?a=1971&z=29



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Last updated: November 5, 2012
First published: November 5, 2012
Article written by David M. White
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