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Harvey Rumor Control

There is a lot of misinformation circulating online and because rumors spread fast please tell a friend, share this page, and help us provide accurate information. Check here often for an on-going list of rumors and their true or false status.

 

Rumor: Sharing Application Information, Immigration Enforcement

FEMA will not proactively provide information gathered through these applications with ICE or CBP for immigration enforcement purposes; however, if a significant law enforcement interest exists (e.g. a national security case) for an individual whose information is contained therein, FEMA may share information with our law enforcement partners, within DHS per their request, in accordance with the intra-agency need to know exception to the general disclosure prohibition of the Privacy Act of 1974.

Rumor: Inspectors sending text messages

There have been reports that FEMA inspectors are allowed to send text messages to survivors. This is TRUE

An inspector should only text a survivor to set up an appointment or to let them know when they will arrive.

A FEMA inspector will not send text messages asking for personal information.

Rumor: FEMA is training National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) adjusters

There are reports that FEMA is training surge National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) adjusters. This is TRUE. (September 27)

The entire insurance industry is searching for qualified individuals to join the ranks of claims adjusters to handle losses from Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Maria, and future events. FEMA is increasing the fee paid to adjusters to ensure that our policyholders receive the best care possible. To be competitive with other insurance companies looking for senior adjuster experience, FEMA will pay adjusters up to 26% above the already increased fee schedule to adjust flood claims. This brings NFIP claims in line with other insurance industry companies which have also increased payments to adjusters.

This temporary move will mean that NFIP policyholders will receive the same high-level of adjustment experience of other insurance claimants – the experience they’ve paid for and deserve.

After filing a flood insurance claim, policyholders should discuss the enhanced claims process with their insurer to determine if an advance payment of up to $20,000 is available to help begin the recovery process as quickly as possible.

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Rumor: Policyholders should pay a fee or percentage of their flood insurance proceeds to third parties

There are reports that policyholders should pay a fee or a percentage of their flood insurance proceeds to third parties to help them file a claim. This is FALSE. (September 27)

FACT: Your flood insurer processes your claim at NO COST. This includes the cost of an insurance adjuster.

Visit FEMA’s resource page on how to file your flood insurance claim for guidance and additional information.

To support policyholders recovering from flood damage from Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, the NFIP is enhancing the flood insurance claims process and directing all their private insurance partners to:

• Provide advance payments on flood claims, even before visits by an adjuster
• Increase the advance payment allowable for policyholders who provide photographs or video depicting flood damage, along with receipts or canceled checks for their out-of-pocket expenses, or a contractor’s itemized estimate
• Waive the initial Proof of Loss (POL) requirement to allow advance payments
• Extend the standard 30-day grace period for NFIP policy renewals

FEMA implemented these temporary changes to rush recovery money into the hands of NFIP policyholders for repair or replacement of flood-damaged properties. Policyholders are encouraged to work closely with their flood insurance company and claims adjuster to maximize the benefit of this enhanced process.

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Rumor: Flood Insurance (September 1 Deadline)

There are reports individuals must file a flood insurance claim before Friday, September 1 because a new Texas law goes into effect that day and all claims filed after Sept. 1 would be negatively impacted. This is FALSE. (August 30)

  • Texas State “House Bill 1774,” passed by the 85th Texas Legislature, does not affect flood insurance policies or claims. Flood insurance is provided through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), which was created by Congress through the passage of the National Flood Insurance Act of 1968. The NFIP is a federal program subject to federal law, so this new Texas state law will have no impact on NFIP policyholders.
  • For information on how this legislation will impact other types of insurance claims in Texas, please reach out to the Texas State Insurance Commissioner’s office.
  • NFIP flood insurance policyholders with flood damage should file their insurance claims as soon as possible to begin their recovery process, but there is no benefit or penalty in filing before or after September 1, 2017. Learn more about how to file your flood insurance claim.

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Scam: Flood Insurance Premiums (Robo-calls)

There are reports Texas residents are being told (via robo-call) their flood premiums are past due and in order to have coverage for Hurricane Harvey they need to submit a payment immediately to a website. This is a SCAM. (August 30)

Insurance companies and agents selling flood insurance policies do not use this process to communicate with customers about their flood insurance policies.  In fact, if your payment is past due, your insurance company will send you several pieces of mail 90, 60, and 30 days before the policy expires.

If you receive a call regarding your flood insurance policy:

  • Hang up the phone. Don't press 1 to speak to a live operator or any other key to take your number off the list. Just hang up.
  • Then contact your insurance agent or insurance company immediately to verify the information.
  • Or call 1-800-638-6620 if you have a policy with NFIP Direct

Visit our resource page on how to file your flood insurance claim.

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Rumor: Receiving Emails from "Send Word Now.com" and Text Messages

There are reports of individuals receiving emails from “@sendwordnow.com” regarding their applications for FEMA assistance. This email address is VALID. (September 25)

FEMA uses Send Word Now (SWN), a mass notification service provider, to help us communicate with disaster survivors regarding their registration for FEMA assistance. The notifications will come in the form of phone calls, emails, and/or text messages. Below are the addresses or numbers that are associated with each form of communication.

  1. Email Address: Federal Emergency Management Agency PHX-gwb@sendwordnow.com
  2. Text Message: 821-04 or 386-71
  3. Phone: 1-800-621-3362; 1-866-337-9322

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Rumor: FEMA refunding $250 for power outages

There are reports that claim FEMA is refunding $250 to everyone who lost power during Harvey if they call the FEMA 800 number. This is FALSE.

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Rumor: Service Animals in Shelters

There are rumors that persons with disabilities are not permitted to bring their service animals to shelters serving disaster survivors of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.  This is FALSE. (September 15) 

The American Red Cross, along with other state, local, and nongovernmental organizations, operate most shelters serving disaster survivors.  Under civil rights law, these shelter providers are required to allow an individual with a disability to be accompanied by their service animal within the shelter.  A service animal is not a pet and is therefore not subject to restrictions applied to pets or other animals.  For more information about service animals under the Americans with Disabilities Act, see Frequently Asked Questions about Service Animals and the ADA and ADA Requirements: Service Animals.

Anyone with a service animal who has been turned away from a disaster shelter can contact the Department of Homeland Security’s Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL) at 866-644-8360 (voice), 1-866-644-8361 (TTY), or CRCL@dhs.gov, the FEMA Office of Equal Rights at 202-212-3535, or the Department of Justice’s Disability Rights Section at 800-514-0301 (voice) or 800-514-0383 (TTY)

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Rumor: Pets in Hotels (Transitional Sheltering Assistance)

There are reports that hotels and motels participating in the Transitional Sheltering Assistance Program are legally required to accommodate pets. This is FALSE. (September 8)

Hotels and motels participating in FEMA’s Transitional Sheltering Assistance Program do not fall under the Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards (PETS) Act (Pub. L. 109-308 (2006)). Please call the hotel before you go and ask if pets are permitted.

Hotels must accept service animals and individuals with access and functional needs should check with the hotel to ensure if accessible lodging accommodations are available to meet their needs.

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Rumor: Danger of Plague

There are reports that floodwaters bring a danger of plague. This is FALSE. (September 3)

Plague is rare in the United States. It is spread through fleas, not floodwater. CDC is not expecting to see an increased risk of plague from Hurricane Harvey. Visit the CDC plague resource page for more info.

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Rumor: Tetanus Vaccine

There are reports that exposure to flood waters increases the risk of tetanus.  This is FALSE. (September 3)

Exposure to flood waters does not increase the risk of tetanus. However, some people may have wounds such as puncture to the skin or nail sticks, cuts, bruises, lacerations, or scrapes (or other skin injuries) that become contaminated with flood waters, human or animal wastes, soil, dirt, or saliva.  Besides treatment of these wounds, the vaccination status of persons should be assessed and an age-appropriate tetanus vaccine given if needed. In some of these situations, the doctor may decide that a tetanus vaccine is needed as early as 5 years since the date of the last dose. 

Being up to date for tetanus vaccine can greatly simplify the treatment for any wound that might occur. Protection from vaccines, as well as a prior infection, do not last a lifetime. This means that if you had tetanus or were vaccinated before, you still need to get vaccinated regularly to keep a high level of protection against this serious disease. Tetanus vaccines are recommended for people of all ages, with booster shots recommended every 10 years.

Each state and local health department can determine what is best for their evacuees after any given disaster, including in terms of vaccination efforts. 

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Rumor: Disaster Clean-up and Inspections

There are reports that disaster survivors should not remove flood-damaged sheetrock, flooring, carpet, etc. until the house is assessed by FEMA or insurance adjustors. This is FALSE. (September 1)

Cleaning up and making temporary repairs to your storm-damaged property will not disqualify you from federal disaster assistance.

Property owners are encouraged to document storm damage to their properties – either with photographs or video – and to then begin cleaning up and making whatever temporary repairs are necessary to make their homes safe and habitable again. Put your health and safety first, take pictures of your damaged home, make repairs to prevent further damage to your property, and keep your receipts to show the inspector.

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Rumor: FEMA Business Re-Entry List

There are reports from businesses that a FEMA list exists that permits travel into the disaster areas. If a business is not on the list, they may not do business in the area. This is FALSE. (September 1)

FEMA didn’t create a list like this. Public and business access into the disaster-impacted areas is solely at the discretion of local officials. Some flooded areas are now dry and available for the public to return, including businesses. However, some areas remain under curfew, some areas remain dangerous and inaccessible, and some areas are subject to new evacuation orders.

Before attempting to enter a disaster-impacted area, check with local officials.

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Rumor: Fuel Shortages

There are rumors that the fuel shortages in Texas are due to either FEMA blocking sales or fuel being committed elsewhere. This is FALSE. (September 1/Updated September 2/September 4)
 
Gasoline Stations – Fuel Shortages
It is true that there are sporadic and localized fuel supply disruptions in the southeast and Texas due to the impacts of Hurricane Harvey. Gasoline retailers obtain gasoline supplies based upon the nature of their relationship with their suppliers and can cause shortages at stations when supply is tight.  There are three primary fuel supply arrangements:  1) major oil company owned and operated, 2) branded independent retailer who sign a supply contract with a major oil company and 3) an unbranded independent retailer (who purchases gasoline from the open market).   With tight supplies due to Hurricane Harvey impacts gas stations that purchase fuel on the open market may not be able to acquire fuel supply since pre-existing supply contracts will be met before gasoline is placed in the open market.
 
Gasoline prices are also increasing in several regions.  http://fuelinsights.gasbuddy.com/HeatMap; http://gasprices.aaa.com; http://www.gaspricewatch.com   
 
Colonial Pipeline Operations
Colonial Pipeline east of Lake Charles, LA is operating intermittently when refinery and terminal product is available to fill the line.  The portion of the pipeline between Houston and Hebert remains down and Colonial is estimating returning this portion of the line to service this Monday. The lack of fuel is caused by a combination of factors including: refinery damage, preemptive shutdowns, damage to fuel terminals, and restricted port access for oil delivery in the region.
 
Strategic Petroleum Reserve
In response, the Department of Energy (DOE) authorized the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) to negotiate and execute emergency exchange agreements authorizing 5.3 million barrels of sweet crude oil and up to 300,000 barrels of sour crude oil to be drawn down from SPR’s West Hackberry  and Bayou Choctaw sites. In addition, DOE and EPA have issued waivers to Colonial which will allow it to accept more product into its pipeline. More information about DOE’s response can be found in its Hurricane Harvey Situation Reports. (Updated September 2)

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Rumor: Hiring ($4-5k per week)

There are reports of a flyer titled FEMA Field Inspectors needed ASAP and states Earn $4-5K per week call (214) 284-XXXX for instructions on how to apply between the hours of 9:00am – 11:00am up to August 31, 2017. This is True. (August 29/Updated September 2)

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Scam: Hiring ($2k per week)

There are reports stating FEMA is looking to employ 1,000 people offering to pay $2,000/week for 90 days and the phone number to call is 888-776-XXXX. This report is a Scam. (August 29/Updated 8/30)

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Rumor: Shelters & ID Check

There are rumors undocumented immigrants cannot go to a shelter because they will be reported to ICE or CBP. This  is False. (August 27)

  • U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) have stated that they are not conducting immigration enforcement at relief sites such as shelters or food banks. In the rare instance where local law enforcement informs ICE of a serious criminal alien at a relief site that presents a public safety threat, ICE will make a determination on a case-by-case basis about the appropriate enforcement actions. More information is available at U.S. Customs and Border Protection and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) joint statement. The Federal Government strongly encourages all persons to follow the guidance of local officials and seek shelter regardless of their immigration status.
  • Most shelters are managed by local communities, the Red Cross, and other voluntary agencies. American Red Cross’ humanitarian mission is to feed, shelter, and provide other forms of support without regard to race, religion, or citizenship status. The Red Cross will not ask people to show any form of identification in order to stay in their shelters. In order to receive some Red Cross services, such as meeting with a caseworker to facilitate disaster recovery, they will need to verify a person’s pre-disaster address. For people who don’t have government-issued identification, the Red Cross can usually do this through alternative means, such as a copy of a utility bill.

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Scam: Inspections or Contractor Repairs

There have been reports of FEMA inspectors asking for personal information or charging for services such as damage inspections or contractor repairs. This is a SCAM. (September 4).

Scam artists may pose as government officials, aid workers, charitable organizations, or insurance company employees. Follow these steps:

  • 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 and 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.  
  • In Texas, more information on disaster-related fraud is available by calling 1-800-252-8011 or by visiting the Texas Attorney General’s Office website.
  • In Lousiana, report any suspicions of fraud by calling the Louisiana Attorney General’s Consumer Protection hotline at 1-800-351-4889, visiting the State Attorney General’s Office website at http://www.agjefflandry.com or calling law enforcement immediately.

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Scam: Impersonations - Homeland Security Investigations (HSI)

There are reports of people impersonating Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) special agents in Texas. This is a SCAM. (August 29).

  • Real Homeland Security Investigations officials wear badges labeled "special agent," which members of the public can ask to see and verify. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers with Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) also wear badges labeled with ERO Officer. They also carry credentials with their name and organization. Members of the public who receive such visitors should ask to see these properly labeled badges, and their credentials.
  • In addition, these officers and special agents would be conducting hurricane relief operations with other local law enforcement agencies. Also note that during Hurricane Harvey relief efforts, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is not conducting immigration enforcement operations in the affected area.
  • To report suspicious activity or individuals you believe are impersonating ICE officials, members of the public should immediately contact ICE toll free at 866-347-2423.

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Last Updated: 
11/16/2017 - 12:12