FEMA on 'rumor control' to prevent spread of Hurricane Irma scams

(KGTV) - The last thing the nearly 5.6 million Floridians ordered to evacuate their homes should have to worry about is whether or not to trust information from FEMA.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is warning of Hurricane Irma rumors and scams spreading as millions coordinate a safe place to stay before the storm hits.

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The agency published a "rumor control" website covering rumors about pets, fuel, disaster clean up, and inspections surrounding the hurricane.

Pets

FEMA says reports of emergency shelters being required to accommodate pets belonging to evacuees are true. However, reports that hotels are required to do the same are false.

The agency says hotels and motels do not fall under the Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act and that evacuees should call hotels ahead of time to check.

Fuel

Reports that fuel is in high demand are absolutely true. Some stations have reported temporary outages and demand in some areas has increased five times above normal levels. The fuel supply chain remains "fully intact," FEMA said.

FEMA is asking residents to only take enough gas to get to their given destination.

Disaster clean-up

Reports that disaster survivors should not remove flood-damaged sheetrock, flooring, carpet, or similar materials until their house is assessed by FEMA or insurance adjusters are false, the agency said.

Cleaning up and making temporary repairs to a storm-damaged property will not disqualify homeowners from federal disaster help. Property owners should document damages, however, through photos or video before making repairs. Also, keep your receipts.

Contractor scams

FEMA warns there may be fraudulent FEMA inspectors asking for personal information or charging for services for repairs and inspections.

FEMA recommends the following step when dealing with a scam artist posing as a government official:

  • Do not respond to texts, phone calls or personal requests seeking your personal information.
  • The only time you should provide personal information is during the initial application process for FEMA help or when you initiate contact with FEMA to follow up on an application. FEMA inspectors only require verification of identity.
  • Ask for identification. Don’t be afraid to hang up on cold callers.
  • Contact government agencies using information posted on their websites or in other official sources.
  • Don’t sign anything you don’t understand or contracts with blank spaces.
  • If you suspect fraud, contact the FEMA Disaster Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721 or report it to the Federal Trade Commission.

Business entry

There may be rumors that FEMA has a list of businesses permitted to travel into disaster areas to do business. This is false, according to FEMA.

No list reportedly exists. Public and business access into disaster areas is up to local officials, FEMA says, they should check with local officials.

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