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Location:near Houston, Gulf Coast, United States

Conservatively liberal, moderately well-educated, and highly opinionated...

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Thursday, October 06, 2005

Does FEMA Have a Lemonade Stand?

A reader sent an interesting email today. I’ve been turning the ramifications of it over in my mind, now, for hours – and I’m still totally discombobulated. Y’all are just gonna have to help me figure this one out.

"Can you believe this? I started getting credit card applications at the temporary address I gave to FEMA in exchange for the $2000 "assistance" check.

The only individual outside my immediate family and friends who has this address is FEMA. I have not registered new utilities under this address. I have not opened up new bank accounts. I did not do a change of address form with the post office because I am still getting mail delivered to my address in the point and I plan on re-settling permanently in the point once things calm down some more in the city."
I emailed back and forth with the reader, and learned that 1. she came across someone else out there in cyberland who experienced this today, and 2. the credit card application came from Chase.

Now you know everything I know.

Is it possible that FEMA is selling lists of disaster victim names to hackers and marketers? Assuming they sold 1 million names, the going rate for mass-mailing lists is pretty low – anywhere from $10 - $100 per thousand names. Even if a buyer paid top dollar, the best you’d get for 1 million names is $100,000.

Surely FEMA isn’t thinking to offset the costs of Katrina this way? Wouldn’t that be kind of like raising money with a lemonade stand to pay for a private jet?

Even if the finances of it made sense, I have a question about that little privacy issue. A government entity can’t release names of citizens receiving assistance…can it? (Am I just naïve?)

Other than FEMA, I only have one other theory: Could someone who was taking the information from FEMA assistance applicants have assembled and privately sold such a list?

One way or another, this just smells wrong to me.