Richmond, KY -- The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Kentucky Division of Emergency Management Agency are working to identify the small percentage of disaster assistance applicants who try to cash in on the misfortune of others. The agencies have established a toll-free fraud hotline to report suspected fraud, waste and abuse of disaster assistance. The number is 1-800-323-8603.
"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," said Thomas J. Costello, deputy federal coordinating officer, overseeing Kentucky's recovery.
Making false statements to a FEMA inspector is itself 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.
"A number of methods are used to detect fraud," said Malcolm Franklin, director of the Kentucky Division of Emergency Management. "An automated system cross-checks information with other agencies and insurance companies to weed out duplicate applications. Field inspections are then conducted to verify losses and damages."
Applicants who made a mistake when reporting damage or may have misrepresented their losses have the opportunity to withdraw or correct their application and prevent prosecution.
Individuals may correct the information by calling FEMA's Helpline at 1-800-621-3362. The number is operational from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. Those with speech or hearing impairments may call 1-800-462-7585.
Anyone who knows of someone who has filed false damage claims or perpetrating any other disaster-related fraud, may report the incident to the Fraud Hotline at 1-800-323-8603.
The Consumer Protection Division of the Kentucky Attorney General's Office also investigates claims of fraud. Their number is 1-888-432-9257.