Press Releases

Avoiding Disaster Fraud: Protecting Yourself Post-Hurricane Sandy

Thousands of people will continue to recover from the disaster of Hurricane Sandy for months and perhaps years to come as they seek to rebuild their homes, their businesses — and their lives.  The future will most likely bring changes to the east coast of the United States in terms of preventative planning, awareness, and development of new methods to protect lives and property.

Those affected by the storm have been devastated from damage and loss and many have remained in dark, cold homes fearful that looters will rob what is left of their possessions.  Unfortunately, when people are most vulnerable it’s the time when criminals and fraudsters gear up to take advantage.

“While people can protect themselves from theft and looting by being aware and taking precautions, they must also protect themselves from the not so obvious — fraud and financial criminal activity that always follows after a disaster,” states Cynthia Hetherington, MLS, MSM, CFE, founder and president of the Hetherington Group (, a private investigations firm specializing in internet investigations, research, forensics, and training.

Sign Up for E-News

Fraudsters will attempt to steal money under the guise of a false charity; attempt to sell a hurricane ravaged car; steal food stamps, FEMA money, clothes, food and blankets that are donated by concerned citizens; and will make promises of reconstructing property for a nominal fee in record-breaking time.

In times of disaster, both sides of the coin are preyed upon — those in need of relief and those looking to aid relief. The government takes great care to ensure that aid recipients are verifiable. But, as citizens we need to be vigilant as well.

For those in need of disaster relief: cleanup, rebuilding, financial, and restoration; here are some tips that will keep you safe:

Tips for those SEEKING RELIEF

  • Contact your insurance carrier to report all damage that has occurred.  Take pictures and document the damage yourself.  Do not remove anything until your insurance has inspected the damage themselves.


  • Be wary of wandering carpenters and workmen who want to repair your home.  They might not be insured or even licensed.


  • If you lost power and TV, contact your provider when you get back online and ask for a refund of the days you were without.


  • If you lost food, contact your home insurance.  It might be covered under your house policy.



     For those who are simply looking to help, these are steps the Hetherington Group recommends to protect from yourself from fraud and to make sure those who need the aid will benefit:


  • Do not respond to any unsolicited e-mails or click on links contained within those messages because they may contain computer viruses or malware.


  • Social networks and email will be used heavily to solicit donations.  Vet and verify the source of the requester before responding or donating.  You can check with your Secretary of State ( to verify if the charity is legitimate.


  • Contractors and handymen will be popping up everywhere looking to repair your roof, cut down your trees, and fix broken items.  Be sure to check your phone book for the Department of Consumer Affairs in your state to see that they are appropriately licensed.  And ask for proof of insurance.


  • Beware of organizations with copycat names that are similar to, but not exactly the same as those of reputable charities (i.e. Red Star vs Red Cross).  Be especially vigilant of groups calling your home for solicitations. Most legitimate charities websites end in .org rather than .com.


  • Rather than following a purported link to a website, verify the legitimacy of non-profit organizations by checking them out in or with the Secretary of State where the charity is located. (Do an “Entity Search” here


  • Make your contribution directly to reputable organizations (such as the Red Cross), and not to an individual or anyone who claims to represent them or sounds like them.  This is especially true when directly “texting” a contribution. Credit card, personal check is recommended.  Never donate with cash.


  • Do not purchase a flood-damaged vehicle. A vehicle history report is available through the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System (NMVTIS) available at


  • Be wary of replacement products that come at a very cheap price.  Drywall from China was used to rebuild homes in Katrina.  Contractors were elated at cheap price and ready supply, only later to learn that it was toxic and need to be replaced.


     In 2005 the Criminal Division of the United States Department of Justice set up the National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Located in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, NCDF’s purpose is to receive and screen reports from the public about possible fraud relating to disasters of all types, and to refer those reports to the field offices of appropriate federal law enforcement agencies.


     Members of the public who wish to report disaster-related fraud or are aware of fraudulent claims that have been submitted, may contact the NCDF through their website at: or at (877) 623-3423 or at


     “Remember when in doubt, check them out,” Hetherington continues. “Conducting due diligence before handing over or investing your money is as smart as having a full tank of gas or a generator on hand before the storm, and is an important step in protecting yourself in post-disaster recovery.”

About Cynthia Hetherington, MLS, MSM, CFE:

Cynthia Hetherington, MLS, MSM, CFE has more than 18 years of experience in research, investigations, and corporate intelligence. She is the founder of Hetherington Group, a consulting, publishing, and training firm focusing on intelligence, security, and investigations. Cynthia is also the ACFE James Baker "Speaker of the Year" Award Recipient 2012.

Cynthia applies her expertise in library science and information systems to provide clients with strategic insight into research and complex investigations. During her career, she has assisted a vast number of clients with Internet investigations related to employee theft and intellectual property loss. Cynthia has also applied her research skills while conducting online and database research to uncover well-hidden relations between fraudulent associates, their assets, and their secrets. She has experience overseeing international investigations for Fortune 500 companies and other organizations in the Middle East, Europe, and Asia.

A widely published author, Cynthia authored Business Background Investigations (2007) and the Manual to Online Public Records (2008), published by Facts on Demand Press as well as co-authoring Web of Deceit: Misinformation and Manipulation in the Age of Social Media (2012) by Information Today. She is the publisher of Internet & Online Intelligence Newsletter and has authored articles on steganography, computer forensics, Internet investigations, and other security-focused monographs.

Cynthia is also recognized for providing corporate security officials; military intelligence units; and federal, state, and local agencies with training on online intelligence practices. Cynthia's classes are ACFE, NASBA, DHS and ASIS approved for continuing professional education credits.







TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News



AtlantiCast Medical Minute: Atlantic Orthopedic Institute’s Scoliosis and Spinal Deformity Center

On this episode of the AtlantiCast Medical Minute, we’ll take you inside the Atlantic Orthopedic Institute’s Scoliosis and Spinal Deformity Center, with the center’s director, Jason Lowenstein, MD.

Video Link:

Guest Column: Help! My Boss is A Bully and Harasses Me

Women in all fields have experienced sexual harassment as well as sexual assault by the famous and the merely inconspicuous. Too often the powers that be in the workplace turn a blind eye or protect the harasser.  Worse yet, the harassment is often accompanied by bullying and intimidation.

What should you do if you find yourself in a situation where your boss or supervisor is sexually ...

Morris Animal Inn: February is National Pet Dental Health Month

MORRISTOWN, NJ - Throughout the month of February, when you schedule your dog's teeth brushing at Morris Animal Inn's Salon, your dog will receive a FREE Dental treat.

Schedule now at 973-532-5030 or visit

Bullet Found at Brooklawn School Causes Lockdown - Updated

February 17, 2018

PARSIPPANY, NJ - A stray bullet that was found in the hallway of Brooklawn Middle School was the cause of a lockdown yesterday afternoon.  

At approximately 2:25 PM Brooklawn Middle School was placed in lockdown after a student found a bullet in a hallway.

School Resource Officer P. McCarthy is assigned to and stationed inside the school and he quickly responded to ...

Elizabeth Schools Report One Student Has Died from Flu Virus

February 19, 2018

ELIZABETH, NJ - The Elizabeth School District has reported that one student has died from Influenza (Flu).

“It is with great sadness that I must report to you that the Elizabeth School District has lost one of its own,”  Elizabeth Superintendent of Schools Olga Hugelmeyer wrote in a letter to parents over the weekend. The Superintendents letter is ...

Grand Reopening Activities for Morristown National Historical Park this Weekend

February 16, 2018

MORRISTOWN, NJ - The schedule of events for the Grand Opening of the Morristown National Historical Park's Discover History Center has been announced. From February 17 through February 20, visitors can attend a variety of talks, walks, interactive exhibits, and performances.  

All events will begin or occur at the Washington’s Headquarters Museum, 30 Washington ...

Morristown High School Presents 'Anything Goes'

MORRISTOWN, NJ - Rehearsals are underway for the 2018 Morristown High School production of Anything Goes. There will be four performances; Thursday March 8, Friday March 9, Saturday March 10 and Sunday March 11

Tickets are on sale and available at

Sign up to get all the news as it happens at and follow us on Facebook ...

Free Event

Happening today at 10am

Registration is Open for Morris Elite's Spring and Summer Camps

February 19, 2018

Morris Elite Soccer Camp will be offering four weeks of camp this summer. Don't miss out! Register now at

Celebrate Presidents Day with Photography Exhibition on George Washington’s Headquarters

MORRISTOWN, NJ - The museum at New Jersey’s Morristown National Historical Park kicks off Presidents Day with the debut solo exhibition George Washington’s Headquarters:  Photographs by Xiomáro, curated by Jude M. Pfister, D.Litt, the park’s Chief of Cultural Resources.  Admission is free and the 24 large images of the Ford Mansion, which served as ...

Macculloch Hall Historical Museum Remembers Abraham Lincoln; Feb. 19

MORRISTOWN, NJ - Macculloch Hall Historical Museum is hosting a program for children on Monday February 19 titled, "Abraham Lincoln Remembered".

Kids can learn about Lincoln’s whistle-stop train trip that began on February 11, 1861 when he traveled from his home in Springfield, Illinois to Washington, DC, where he took the presidential oath of office and began his first term as ...

The HOPE ONE Van Comes to Morristown Library Feb. 8th

February 8, 2018

MORRISTOWN, NJ -  The HOPE ONE van will be at the Morristown & Morris Township Library on today, February 8 from 9am - 2pm. 

The  HOPE One vehicle, which previously was used in police tactical operations is now a mobile recovery access vehicle. The vehicle, which  has trained staff on site, provides individuals with information about rehab, detox services, ...

iCan Bike, a Bike Riding Camp For People With Disabilities, Comes To CCM in Randolph

RANDOLPH, NJ- iCan Bike, a camp to teach individuals with disabilities to ride a conventional two-wheel bicycle, is coming to County College of Morris in the summer of 2018.  CCM is generously providing the use of their gymnasium for the iCan Bike organizers to run their program in.

The camp, which will be held August 6-10, is one of several programs run under the auspices of iCan Shine, ...

Morrisown Students Invited to the Morris County Public Safety Youth Academy

February 19, 2018

MORRISTOWN, NJ - The sixth-annual Morris County Public Safety Youth Academy program will be held this July for students entering grades 9-12 in the fall. Enrollment will begin March 1 and close April 8. The program is designed for students entering Grades 9 – 12 in the fall of this year.  

The 2018 program will be held the week of July 23 – July 27 (Mon – ...

Brendan Fletcher of "The Voice" Named as a Judge for Morristown ONSTAGE

MORRISTOWN, NJ – The Morris Educational Foundation (MEF) has announced this year’s panel of professional judges which includes 2016 semi-finalist on The Voice and New Jersey native, Brendan Fletcher.  Brendan was introduced to Morristown ONSTAGE last year when his friend and fellow musician, Jay Phatak, competed for the top prize and won last year’s 19 and over ...

Morris Township Firemen Host Valentine's Day Flower and Gift Sale

MORRIS TOWNSHIP, NJ - Planning on getting roses for someone special this Valentine's Day? Why not get them from the HIllside Fire House and help support the Morris Township Emergency Management Association and the Morris Township Firefighter's Mutual Benevolent Association Local 70 .

The roses will be on sale at the Hillside Fire House, 132 Western Avenue on February 12 ...

Very Hot Tea Increases Cancer Risk

Researchers in China studying the consumption of “burning” hot tea, alcohol, and smoking habits of greater than 450,000 people ages 30 –79 for more than nine years found a five time greater risk of esophageal cancer in those who engaged in all three of the behaviors and a two time greater risk in those who either smoked or drank alcohol and consumed burning hot tea as compared ...

The 33% Approval Rating of this Administration Illustrates One Thing: The Electoral College Failed

The 33% Approval Rating of this Administration Illustrates One Thing: The Electoral College Failed

Jeff Sessions-  “Why would be bring somebody into the country who is illiterate in their own language?”  -To Tucker Carlson on FOX.

The most frustrating thing about the television is the one sided conversations that take place.  When the Attorney General, Jeffrey B.

Top 5 Reasons to Hire a Real Estate Professional When Buying or Selling in NJ

Team Nest Builder knows that whether you are buying or selling a New Jersey home it can be quite the adventure, which is why you need an experienced real estate professional to guide you on the path to achieving your ultimate goal. But in this world of instant gratification and internet searches, many sellers think that they can ‘For Sale by Owner’ or ...

NYJ Class for Young Mindless Players

If only this was true.....

Good morning. My name is Todd Bowles, head coach for the New York Jets, as you are all aware. Today we will be going over some of the stupidest things you should not do while playing for the NFL. Your agent should have gone over the NFL conduct rules and the New York Jets rules (although sometimes ours are a little less harsher, hush, hush) while you were signing ...

Super Carb Diet by Bob Harper

Super Carb Diet by Bob Harper with Danny Pellegrino (St. Martin's Press, 2017)

It's hard to go on a serious diet, one on which you expect to be successful and maintain a loss. Fortunately, in his new book Super Carb Diet, Bob Harper has given the weight watching world a sensible new diet plan to help achieve a healthy weight.

Harper, host of NBC's popular show The Biggest Loser, ...

Game of Thrones: A Definitive Ranking of Seasons 1-7

Groundhog Day. The day a tiny mammal’s shadow tells us when winter will come to an end. Me? I prefer my weather forecast in the form of a white raven (the telltale changing of seasons in Westeros).

For a few days, rumors spread that Game of Thrones will not return for its final season until April 2019, and while it was clarified that the April return date was likely a false rumor, HBO ...

'What Stays' exposes family secrets and lies

‘What Stays’ exposes family secrets, resentment and lies

By Liz Keill

SUMMIT, NJ – In an original play by Laura Ekstrand and Jason Szamreta, the Dreamcatcher Repertory Theatre has provided an enlightening, funny and heart-felt view of family foibles.

Ekstrand has said that the germ of the play came from conversations with the ensemble members of the troupe, based on ...

Guest Column: How to Talk with Kids About the Florida Shooting

February 15, 2018

Guest Column

The tragedy of the Florida school shooting is devastating leaving 17 killed and 15 injured. Our children can easily identify with what occurred yesterday. It will be the topic of conversation today in schools everywhere. School administrators are doing all they can to provide support and guidance. The shootings affect children, teachers, and school personnel. The ...

Guest Column: The Great "Wait" of the College Process

"The Great Wait" of the College Application Process

For all the high school seniors and their parents, we are in the stressful "waiting period".  We've just finished or are finishing applications to all the schools we might possibly want to attend next year and now sit and wait our fate after the $60-$80 non-refundable application fees to at least 8-13 schools and ...

Upcoming Events

Tue, February 20

Scherman Hoffman Wildlife Sanctuary, Bernardsville

NJ Audubon: Volunteer Art Show!

Arts & Entertainment Green

Tue, February 20, 9:00 AM

The Center for Contemporary Art, Bedminster

Andrea Gianchiglia: Tools of the Trade

Arts & Entertainment

Tue, February 20, 9:00 AM

The Center for Contemporary Art, Bedminster

Keepers of the Chroma: An Exhibition Regarding ...

Arts & Entertainment

CCM Library to Offer Free Workshops in Grant Writing and Fundraising Workshops Provided by Foundation Center’s Funding Information Network

February 19, 2018

RANDOLPH, NJ – The County College of Morris (CCM) Library’s Foundation Center Funding Information Network is offering three free workshops on the Foundation Center products during the college’s Spring Break, March 12-15.   The CCM Library is a participant in the Foundation Center’s Funding Information Network. Network partners provide a suite of ...