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FEMA notifies residents of possible privacy breach


BAY COUNTY, Fla. (WMBB) — As Hurricane Michael survivors continue to recover, a piece of mail is now adding to their stress.

It seems residents who took part in the Transitional Housing Assistance (TSA) Program after the storm could’ve had their information unnecessarily shared by FEMA.

The TSA program provided hotel accommodations for disaster survivors who were not able to return home for an extended period of time. FEMA relied on contractor assistance to administer the program, which involves payment directly to lodging providers.

In a letter dated on September 3, 2019, representatives informed Hurricane Michael survivors their banking and home address information may have been unnecessarily shared with these contractors.

Part of the letter from FEMA to residents

In the letter to residents, FEMA says an investigation was conducted by the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General that discovered FEMA shared more than required personal information.

The letter says this breach impacted more than 2.5 million since 2008.

The breach impacts more disaster areas other than Hurricane Michael.

News 13 learned about the breach through a viewer who says she is ‘disgusted’ by the incident.

On Monday, News 13 spoke with Michelle Marshall about her frustrations with the breach.

Marshall is a single mother of four and says this situation is all too familiar for her.

“Just basically saying you got to be kidding me. You know why? Because I went through the Equifax breach and I was one of the victim’s of that and then I get this letter and it’s the same thing and it’s really like, you have to be kidding me,” Marshall said.

As she, along with the Panhandle, continues to recover and get back into at least a comfortable spot, she says this is just another thing running around in her mind.

“I mean it’s a whole different feeling ya know. It makes me angry that this day in age, we’re not better protected,” Marshall said.

The fix FEMA gave in their letter is 18-months of free credit score monitoring but Marshall says, this “solution” isn’t giving her any new resources or help.

“We’re supposed to just take the free credit monitoring when we have places Credit Karma and Credit Sesame we can look at our scores for free,” Marshall said.

She says going forward if there is another storm she’s unsure who to trust.

“We already took a nasty hit from the hurricane and then to have these things happen, it kind of gives you trust issues with the government,” Marshall said.

News 13 reached out to FEMA and they directed us to this website for a response.

If you’ve been affected, click here to see some tips on keeping your information as safe as possible and also information on reporting identity theft.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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