USGS warns L.A. residents of bogus earthquake alert letter

RANCHO CUCAMONGA, Calif. - A bogus letter circulating online is warning Southland residents about an impending earthquake.

The hoax letter, which uses a U.S. Geological Survey logo, states, in part, "Please be advised as of this morning, March 31, 2014, the state of California is issuing a statewide warning as we have just received information from the state's Seismic Warning Systems urging residents in the following areas to be prepared for a sizable earthquake, up to, but not limiting, a 7.4-magnitude tremor."

A magnitude-5.1 earthquake centered near Los Angeles shook the region last week but caused no major damage. The quake did however jitter nerves throughout the region as dozens of aftershocks struck into the night.

Mike Parker, the chief operations officer for Priority One Medical Transport, told CBS Los Angeles that when he first read the bogus email, he didn't want to take any chances.

"I thought it might be credible," he said. "We have what they call strike team leaders...I have two of them up in Northern California. I put them on alert that, 'Hey, if something goes down here, I know you guys are five hours away, but we may need to send additional resources to help out L.A. County or Orange County.'"

In a statement on Facebook, the USGS wrote, "USGS is aware of a letter circulating on the Internet that uses our logo and warns of an impending sizable earthquake in Southern California. USGS had no part in this letter or any alleged alert. USGS does not predict earthquakes. USGS distributes reliable and timely scientific information on earthquakes and makes it all available to the public."

Scott Nebenzahl of Seismic Warning Systems, Inc. also released a statement, which said: "We are aware of a fraudulent message purportedly issued by Seismic Warning Systems, Inc. relative to an earthquake advisory in Southern California. Although we should always be mindful of potential earthquakes, it is unfortunate that some individuals may be unduly alarmed or worried by a false statement being attributed to me, my company, the State of California, and the USGS."

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