San Antonio, TX -- State and Federal officials today issued a reminder that aggressive action will be taken against any criminal attempt to defraud the federal government in connection with those affected by Tropical Storm Fay.
Federal Coordinating Officer Scott Wells and State Coordinating Officer Duke Mazurek both agree that managing a multi-million dollar disaster program always means walking a fine line between bringing speedy service to those who need it and ensuring that taxpayer dollars are not misused.
FEMA uses a number of methods to detect fraud. An automated system crosschecks information with other agencies and insurance companies to weed out duplicate applications. Also field inspections are conducted to verify losses and damages.
Making false statements to a FEMA inspector is a prosecutable offense under Title 18 of the United States Code. Potential cases of fraud or misuse are referred to the U.S. Justice Department for prosecution. Penalties for felony offenses can be severe.
People who made a mistake when reporting damage or may have misrepresented their losses have the opportunity to cancel their claim. Individuals may call the Helpline at 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) or for the hearing or speech-impaired TTY: 1-800-462-7585 to withdraw or correct an application and prevent prosecution.
Anyone who knows of someone who has filed false damage claims or perpetrated any other disaster-related fraud may report the incident to the Fraud Hotline at 1-800-323-8603. FEMA's Office of Inspector General will investigate all reports of fraud.