Miami, FL -- The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Florida Division of Emergency Management (FDEM) lends a helping hand to those impacted by disasters, such as the Miami-Dade County residents and business owners whose lives were disrupted on March 27 by a spate of tornadoes and severe storms. For the two government entities, it is a balancing act: on one hand, delivering aid - mostly financial - to those in need; on the other hand, protecting taxpayers' money.
"Most people who apply for funds do so honestly," said Federal Coordinating Officer Justo Hernandez of FEMA, "but every now and then a person tries to take undue advantage of the disaster assistance system."
There are several ways for government to detect fraud. One is through an electronic process that cross-checks information from FEMA, its partner agencies, and insurance companies to detect duplicate or fraudulent applications. Homes of applicants are inspected to verify the damages and losses claimed. All cases suspected of fraud are referred to the U.S. Department of Justice for investigation and possible criminal charges.
"We want to make sure that disaster assistance goes to victims who need it," said Craig Fugate, FDEM director and state coordinating officer. "We urge anyone who makes an error when submitting their claim to contact the FEMA Helpline to amend their claim."
To withdraw or make a correction on a submitted claim, one should call the FEMA Helpline at 1-800-621-3362 (or 1-800-462-7585, for those with speech or hearing difficulties).
If you know someone who is committing fraud with disaster assistance, call the Office of the Inspector General, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, at 1-800-323-8603.