After the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, many are wondering how they can help. At the same time, criminals are using this outpouring of support to take advantage of well-meaning citizens through deception and fraud.
People who wish to contribute to the relief effort are urged to beware of charity scams, which are especially prevalent online. Consumer advocates offer the following advice:
* Make sure the organization is legitimate. Some illicit organizations will try to confuse you by using a name that is similar to a well-known charity. Do your research to find a reputable charity. For a list of charity reports, visit the BBB Wise Giving Alliance Web site, www.give.org.
* Never respond to or click on a link within an e-mail asking for money and claiming to be from a charity. If you wish to make a donation online, stick with familiar, established charities and donate through their Web sites directly.
* Be skeptical of telephone solicitations. Never give out your personal or credit card information. Ask for a charity’s exact name and address. After researching the organization, call back using its published number if you would like to get more information by phone.
* Give a check or money order made out to the organization, not an individual.
What are the best ways to help? The following is a partial list of organizations:
American Red Cross
Provides emergency shelter, food, water and other critical assistance.
America’s Second Harvest
Donations help transport food to victims and secure additional warehouse space to assist member food banks in resuming and maintaining operations.
Habitat for Humanity
Helps repair and rebuild homes damaged by the hurricane.
Provides food, drinking water, cleaning supplies and other necessities.
Convoy of Hope
Provides supplies and other disaster relief, sponsoring outreaches to the poor and suffering.
Humane Society of the United States
This time it will be our own governments mostly that will do the victimizing but some businesses will get it on it as well. Its simply one of the biggest revenue generating processes utilized by various levels of governments that very little is known of by the regular citizen. It causes family savings to be lost, assets to go uncovered and even inheritances to disappear over time. It victimizes the poor disproportionately than any other class in our society. It takes away from those who need it the most… like poor, middle class and poverty level citizens. But this process has also been known to victimize people of all classes and races in the United States. What are we talking about? Unclaimed Money is the name of the game. Millions of dollars that were in utility deposits, savings bonds, bank accounts, family properties, safe deposits contents and a slew of other unclaimed assets and money is turned over to various government agencies every year, with only a small amount ever being returned to the rightful owners or heirs. This unclaimed money windfall is actually multiplied TENFOLD because of disasters like Hurricane Katrina.
During these times there is a very very large portion of those who lose their home and important papers in the process, to also forget the location of many of their assets. Once these assets go unclaimed for a specified amount of time, they are usually turned over to a government agency with the hope of finding the owners of record. But history has shown that these unclaimed assets and unclaimed money accounts are seldom recovered because the government does a very poor job of tracking the unclaimed accounts owners or rightful heirs. This is the same government that can track you down for past taxes, criminal behavior, outstanding tickets and summonses, child support and just about any outstanding debt you may owe them. But they seem to have an inability to deploy these same tactics to return your unclaimed money and unclaimed property when these came into their coffers. Can you imagine how many THOUSANDS of even TENS OF THOUSANDS of bank accounts, family deeds, bonds, insurance policies, store and utility deposits information has been lost due to the recent disaster?
The sad part is that these are people who are victims already, and they are also prime targets for this unclaimed property victimization that comes later… courtesy of the state and federal governments. Did you know that it is estimated that 7 out of 10 people have unclaimed money that they don’t know about? That is an AMAZING 70%! How would you like a business where people placed their valuables with you but only 30% of them ever came to claim their property later? That would be a very desirable business venture wouldn’t it? Well it is also estimated that these government agencies are now holders of over $1 TRILLION dollars of unclaimed money and unclaimed property. Have you already been a victim of this practice? Has a present or deceased family member been a victim of this unclaimed money and unclaimed property practice? Do you have unclaimed money owed to you? Don’t delay and find out today because the truth of the matter is that most of the people that are reading this article already have money owed to them, or they will have money owed to them in the future. The key is knowing all of the places to look.
The recovery from Katrina and Rita ushers in a new era of Disaster Recovery and Prevention. Governments and people are rethinking their response to disasters and the steps they can take to prevent or minimize the worst consequences. The biggest catalyst for this new era is the political fall-out from Katrina.
The slow response to Katrina was a black eye for the Bush administration. For Michael Brown, the ex-head of FEMA, it was a national humiliation. The fates of Louisiana governor Kathleen Blanco and New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin remain to be seen, but reports have pointed out their failures in prevention and response, and that will come into play at election time.
President Bush wants to make up for the bungled response (and restore some political capital)and has earmarked a recovery effort that may total $200 billion dollars. The early response to Katrina has become a cautionary tale for politicians and bureaucrats in federal, state and local governments, and you can be sure they will be pushing for more disaster prevention spending in their own particular fiefdoms. And the media is keeping watchnewspapers in California have been filled with stories warning about the lack of disaster (especially earthquake) preparation in the state.
The Army Corp of Engineers, burned by the lack of follow-through on their recommendation to raise the New Orleans levees, is now looking to repair vulnerable areas around the country. And theyre not the only ones.
New homes have multiplied along vulnerable coastal areas. From Florida to the Outer Banks up to The Hamptons and all throughout the east coast, coastal property values have soared. Dune Road, a sliver of land with pricey homes between the ocean and a bay in Westhampton, New York, was virtually wiped out by flooding little more than a decade ago. Now it has been rebuilt with even pricier multi-million dollar homes. You can be sure these homeowners will spend what it takes to protect their properties.
And they may need to because it looks like big storms are brewing. If many meterologists are correct, we may have entered a cycle of increasing frequency and severity of hurricanes.
Combine the measures slated for homeland security, rebuilding the Gulf coast and the ramp-up of disaster prevention around the country and you have a near permanent state of disaster recovery and prevention.
For some companies, lets call them Hurricane stocks, the opportunity to take part in the Gulf recovery means a great deal of more business in the short term. For others, it may mean more business for many years to come.
Hurricane stocks are companies that are needed right now. For instance, the immediate need to help those whose homes have been destroyed or are unhabitable. Think of companies that provide temporary living and survival gear. Think of Coleman camping products, such as tents, sleeping bags, portable stoves, flashlights. Coleman is owned by Jarden (JAH:NYSE).
Manufactured homes have come a long way in the past decade, and will prove to be a good temporary solution for many and a permanent solution for others in the Gulf. Cavalier Homes (AMEX:CAV) has been contracted to build and deliver manufactured homes to the Federal Emergency Management Agency to house Gulf Coast residents displaced by Hurricane Katrina. The contract is expected to generate $58 million to $63 million in revenue for the company.
Some other compnnies in this sector include Champion (NYSE:CHB), which partners with nearly 3,000 independent retailers, builders and developers, Fleetwood Enterprises (NYSE: FLE) and Coachmen Industries Inc. (NYSE:COA).
Oil and gas facilites in the Gulf coast also need emergency repair. The economy of the Gulf Coast and, to an extent, the economy of the U.S. depends on it. A number of drilling rigs were damaged in the storms, which means that a company like ENSCO (NTSE:ESV) which owns drilling rigs in the area, will be in big demand. Oceaneering International (NYSE: OII), which inspects and repairs underwater infrastructure of oil facilities, will be busy, as will Jacobs Engineering (NYSE:JEC), providing engineering and construction services to oil and gas companies.
Rebuilding the Gulf Coast
Rebuilding will include the big dogs in construction, like Halliburton (NYSE:HAL), The Shaw Group(SGR) and Caterpillar (NYSE:CAT). But many smaller companies will also take part, often as subcontractors. The Army Corp of Engineers has increased its task order from $10 million to $20 for Aduddell Roofing, a subsidiary of Zenex International, Inc. (OTCBB:ZENX). National Storm Management (NLST:PK), an expanding national construction company specializing in storm restoration management, will also do a good deal of restoration work in the Gulf Coast.
To build you need building materials. Home retailers such as Home Depot and Lowes will be seeing their orders increase, but so will companies that provide raw materials like timber. Take a look at Rayonier (NYSE:RYN)and Plum Creek Timber (NYSE:PCL), two REITs that own and manage timber properties.
Some Hurricane and rebuilding stocks have already jumped and retreated. But the point to remember is that while the hurricanes resulted in an immediate need to help those in dire need, they also ushered in a new era, an era when governments and people in the U.S. and around the world know they can do more to recover from disasters and minimize the consequences. So keep an eye on companies that will be at the center of the Disaster and Prevention theme for years to come.