INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- The scam that had recently been discovered in other states has now been reported in Indiana. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and the State of Indiana have announced that people representing themselves as FEMA employees are calling victims in a designated area and asking for bank information and/or a fee to assist the process of getting disaster recovery money.
"There is never a fee to speed up getting assistance money to your account. FEMA grant money usually arrives in 7 to 10 days," said FEMA Federal Coordinating Officer, Justo "Tito" Hernandez. "When an applicant calls FEMA, some personal information will be taken which is held in strict confidence. If an official FEMA employee initiates the call, they will know your registration number."
Unfortunately, much of the information scam artists claim to have such as names, addresses, location of bank accounts, bank routing numbers, spouses' names, etc, is readily available on the internet from a number of sources. In reported incidents, the scam artist did not have any individual bank account numbers or FEMA registration numbers; leading FEMA officials to believe they are merely targeting people in disaster designated counties.
"We really encourage people to be cautious about giving out private information," said Luther J. Taylor, Sr., state coordinating officer in Indiana. "If you have any suspicion about a caller, you can check them out by calling the toll-free registration number 1-800-621-FEMA (3362). Those with speech or hearing impairment may call TTY 1-800-462-7585."
Anyone who has been asked to pay a fee to gain access to FEMA Disaster Assistance money or to get a FEMA inspection completed, is asked to report the incident to the Indiana Attorney General's Consumer Protection office at 1-800-382-5516.
On March 1, 2003, FEMA became part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. FEMA's continuing mission within the new department is to lead the effort to prepare the nation for all hazards and effectively manage federal response and recovery efforts following any national incident. FEMA also initiates proactive mitigation activities, trains first responders and manages the National Flood Insurance Program and the U.S. Fire Administration.