Fake News And Scams Are Going Around About The Deadly Storm In Texas
Insurance scams, rumors of water shutoffs, and fake restrictions on when people can return are all bouncing around the internet.
On Saturday, a massive hurricane, Harvey, slammed into Texas, causing evacuations, at least two deaths, and a lot of confusion. Here's a lot of the misinformation going around.
1. Harvey victims are being targeted by an insurance scam.
A search on Facebook shows many people are sharing the insurance number.
Authorities have urged people who need assistance to call 911 and to stay on the line if they're put on hold. The Coast Guard has also set up an emergency line to help Houston.
2. Houston officials sent a tweet debunking rumors about drinking water being turned off.
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner also sent a tweet to shut down the rumor.
3. Corpus Christi officials sent a tweet dispelling a rumor that the city would be turning off utilities in anticipation of Harvey.
4. Corpus Christi officials had to put a stop to a second rumor on Saturday that they were preventing people from returning.
A Facebook search shows many people have been copying and pasting this fake statement.
5. Twitter users are sharing an image of the "Cajun Navy," relief volunteers out of Louisiana appearing to deploy to help with relief. The team of volunteers is actually there, but the photo is a year old.
6. Corpus Christi police denied rumors of looting in the wake of the hurricane.
Lt. John Hooper with Corpus Christi police told KIII NEWS the rumors about looting encouraged panic and calls to police, but there have only been about half a dozen arrests for burglaries.
7. An image from the 2016 Greenspoint flood in Texas has gone viral, but it's outdated. Here's the source.
8. Another old photo being circulated shows airplanes almost completely submerged in water, but it's not from Houston.
9. Several users tweeted a fake photo of a shark that went viral, as it has during at least two past hurricanes. The man behind the original post told BuzzFeed News, "If people choose to be fooled by a shark swimming by a car, I don’t think it says a great deal about me."
The doctored photo is at least six years old and originated during Hurricane Irene. It made the rounds during Hurricane Sandy as well.
The image of the shark was lifted from a famous photograph of a kayaker and a shark and was photoshopped into a nondescript flooded street.
10. Black Lives Matter did not block emergency crews from helping in Houston. The story comes from a "satirical" website that has a disclaimer, but it's being taken seriously.
Other websites copied the story but didn't include any disclaimers. According to social-media tracking tool BuzzSumo, at least four websites reposted the fake news with the same headline.
12. A disreputable website posted that Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner has "vanished," but it's not true. Turner gave a press conference Monday afternoon and has been providing updates on the situation in Houston.
The post included spelling errors and other stories on the site were fake or misleading. It was posted on Facebook Monday afternoon, ignoring the mayor's press conference and media appearances.
13. Texans are reporting price-gouging in the aftermath of Harvey — but this viral Facebook post isn't accurate.
14. Some people were sharing an image with the caption "Texas State trooper leading Our beautiful Mexican neighbors to Houston to rescue our friends, families and fur babies," but the image is actually from a 2005 story related to Hurricane Katrina.
15. People are using the hashtag #HarveyLootcrew to spread misinformation about burglaries in Houston. Fake accounts are spreading old images claiming there is mass looting in the city, but that is not true.
The tweets using the #HarveyLootcrew hashtag seem to have originated on website 4chan and are consistently racially motivated. One tweet, for example, took an image of boxer Floyd Mayweather and framed him as one of the looters. The tweet above used a 2014 image from Ferguson and presented it as recent.
Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo told ABC News officers have arrested 14 looters so far, adding that thieves will face stiff penalties. But there's little evidence online of looting happening on a mass scale.
16. This is not an image of Mexican firefighters getting on a flight to Dallas.
This is image is from help Mexico sent to battle wildfires in Canada in 2015. Stacey Roberts, who has since deleted the tweet, told BuzzFeed News she didn't intent for it to be misleading and regretted using the photo. “I should have worded my tweet differently," she said.
Mexico did offer to send help to Houston, and the state of Texas accepted it, but the promised boats and supplies haven't gotten there yet. However, Mexican Red Cross volunteers are currently helping out in Houston.
17. A Houston mosque did not refuse to take in refugees from Hurricane Harvey because they were Christian. That story also originated from a satirical website, using a photo of a man living in Canada, before spreading to other news sites and YouTube.
The stories, which claimed a mosque turned away victims of the storm seeking shelter, began on the site "Last Line of Defense," which labels itself as satirical, before being shared on sites without disclaimers, including YouTube.
A second site "Fresh Daily News," reposted the same story, according to tracker BuzzSumo.
That site has a separate declaimer, which reads, in part: "FreshDaily.com is a satirical publication that may sometimes appear to be telling the truth... Names that represent actual people are purely coincidental and all images should be considered altered and do not in any way depict reality."
All of the stories included a photo of a real, actual person — a man named Ibrahim Hindy who lives in Toronto and who has never been to Houston.
"I woke up and checked my phone and found that a bunch of people had tagged me on twitter," Hindy posted on Facebook Friday. "I've never even been to Texas before," he wrote.
For the record, Hindy wrote, he is currently in Makkah, performing Hajj.
"My friends and I have been praying for the #HurricaneHarvey victims our entire time here," he wrote. "I met one man from Houston in our hotel who told me that he lost his entire house while away for Hajj. The hardship they have endured has been devastating. I pray that Allah brings aid and comfort to all the victims, whether Muslim or not."
Others responded by sharing stories of mosques in Houston that opened their doors to those needing shelter from the storm.
BuzzFeed News has reached out to Hindy and will update with any comment.
This post will be updated as we see more scams and fake news being shared.