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Government emergency alert system scams are spreading across the country

Your phone will vibrate and sound a loud alarm this Wednesday, but don’t let it shock you. It’s the long-promised Wireless Emergency Alert from President Trump.

And hand-in-hand with this test, dangerous scams are likely to spread across the country, too.

The alert, called a Presidential Alert, will be coming to your phone Wednesday, Oct. 3, at 2:18 p.m. EDT (11:18 a.m. PDT). This is the alert that was originally scheduled for Sept. 20, but was put off for two weeks because of the emergency already under way then from Hurricane Florence.

Some Americans were angry because you can’t opt out of the message or turn it off. But the system is designed that way to contact as many people as possible in case of a national emergency, much like local AMBER alert messages.

And it isn’t really coming from President Trump, but from FEMA.

Fun Fact: A lawsuit has been filed in New York seeking to stop this test, citing First and Fourth Amendment violations, and the fact that Donald Trump is president.

In the event of a national emergency, the government used to send out messages on radio and TV. You might remember those strange beeps and sounds that would take over the airwaves.  Today, we’re all carrying cellphones.

So, in order to reach all possible Americans the fastest way possible, the system will involve cellphones, and this is the first test of the system.

Know the details

The usage of the system is limited to instances of a natural disaster, an act of terrorism, or other man-made disaster or other serious threat to public safety.

The subject of the WEA trial text will read “Presidential Alert.” Then, there will be the message, “This is a test of the National Wireless Emergency Alert System. No action is needed.”

FEMA alert

Watch out for scams

The use of a national system like this, and the publicity it has fostered, has raised the chance that some scammers could try to take advantage of the moment.

Be on the lookout for phony text messages and phishing emails, especially any that claim you need to confirm your phone number to receive future alerts. Remember, you never have to do that.

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