Federal officials are warning Iowans affected by this summer’s floods about a text-message scam targeting people seeking federal disaster assistance. FEMA, the FBI and the FCC are investigating reports of a text messages received by people in neighboring states including Wisconsin, that promise new information from FEMA. The cell phone users are then charged a monthly fee of $9.99 if they accept the service.
FEMA spokesperson, Anita Westervelt says the agency does NOT communicate about disaster assistance by cell phone text messages. “If they do get a text message, don’t respond to it, don’t press star. But if you already have we are trying to contact the carriers, and hopefully arrange that people will have that taken off their bill,” Westervelt says. She says the messages come at a time when people have a lot of other things on their mind.
“It’s always good to be cautious and then especially when you’re in the throes of a disaster or the disaster clean up. Because you’re not thinking like you normally would,” Westervelt says, “And when you’re reaching out for help and help comes looking for you, people are very trusting.” Westervelt says Iowans who believe they’ve received fraudulent text messages can contact FEMA or the state attorney general’s office.
Thirty-four Iowa counties are currently eligible to apply for individual federal aid for damages suffered during this summer’s heavy flooding. The application deadline is October 13.