LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) advises using caution when applying for individual and housing assistance as fraudulent contractors and scam artists are common following disasters.
It is not uncommon to be taken unaware by someone claiming to be an official disaster aid worker, reputable contractor or a volunteer wanting to help complete disaster aid applications. Those who suffered losses resulting from the hurricanes need to be aware of some common ploys, such as phone calls from people claiming to be with FEMA.
Typically, residents are asked if they have registered with FEMA for disaster assistance. If it is confirmed they have registered, the caller will ask for a Social Security number and income information. The caller may then ask for a checking account number and bank routing information. Giving out this type of information is enough for an unscrupulous person to make a false claim for disaster assistance as well as to commit identity theft.
Any callers claiming to be with FEMA should be asked to provide their personal identification number from their badge. If evacuees feel uncomfortable with providing information to callers claiming to be a FEMA representative, they should immediately call FEMA at 1-800- 621-FEMA (3362) or TTY 1-800-462-7585 to answer any questions or to complete their application.
Disaster victims are also strongly cautioned against using non-FEMA or federal government Internet sites and toll-free numbers when providing personal and financial information.
FEMA encourages anyone who believes she or he may have witnessed fraudulent activity to report it immediately through the Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General's Hurricane Fraud Hotline 1-866-720-5721 .
FEMA prepares the nation for all hazards and manages federal response and recovery efforts following any national incident. FEMA also initiates mitigation activities, trains first responders, works with state and local emergency managers, and manages the National Flood Insurance Program and the U.S. Fire Administration. FEMA became part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security on March 1, 2003.