Saturday, September 3, 2005 Hurricane eRumor Alert

From: Rich Buhler,
RE: Hurricane Katrina

This is a special eRumor report in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

For those who have not been through a major national crisis before as users of the Internet, we just want to forewarn you that you are likely to be besieged with hoaxes, rumors, and stories in the aftermath of this horrible hurricane.

Be wise, be alert, and be suspicious!

Several have already begun to circulate.

One says that the employees of a refinery were told that the gas rationing is planned and that they should all keep their gas tanks topped off. The email is a classic eRumor in that there are virtually no verifiable details in it.

It refers to a "local refinery" and there is no information as to what refinery, what city or geographical area, or who originated the email. Hurricane Katrina is a major disaster for the U.S. and its effects are going to be felt. If there is gas rationing, this email did not predict it in any substantive way.

Another email says it is a petition to President Bush asking that gas prices be lowered.

The petition asks you to add your name to the bottom and then the 2000th person is to send it to the president. The petition is virtually worthless. Anybody can construct this kind of petition and fabricate names to add to it so even if they do get to a politician, they do not carry the weight of other petitions.

True petitions require your signature and address so the names can be authenticated.

They typically ask registered voters to be the signers so a sampling of their information can be checked against voter registration records. Also, the success of such a petition depends on an enormous number of people for its success, not to mention the anonymous person who is supposed to notice that he or she is the 2000th person and send it to the president. It's far better for each of us as individuals to get the email, fax, mailing address, or phone numbers for elected officials and send them a message under our own names. very cautious about any emails that you receive asking for donations to hurricane relief. Disasters like this dredge out two kinds of crooks.

One is people who will send you authentic-looking emails asking you to go to a link and make a credit card donation, but the link is not to a legitimate charity and may even masquerade as a well-known charity.

The other crooks are the ones who are not necessarily looking for immediate money such as a donation but want to trick you into giving your credit card information.

To donate for hurricane relief, make sure you give to a charity that is known to you and trusted and that you go directly to that organization's web site or donate by telephone or mail.

In addition, be cautious about any local efforts to actually collect water, food, or clothes.

These can be well meaning and by good people but are misguided. Hundreds of tons of supplies are gathered in response to disasters that cannot be delivered to the people who need them because there is not a way of getting them there or any organized way of distributing them if they do.

It is best to donate to organizations that are already on the scene and that can use your donation to add to the supplies and distribution channels that have been set up.

We'll keep you posted.



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