JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) are working to identify a small percentage of disaster assistance applicants who have been trying to cash in on the misfortune of others.
"As of last Friday, state and federal agencies have paid out nearly $8 million in grants and loans to those who have suffered damage due to the storms that affected our state from June to mid August,? said State Coordinating Officer Ronald Reynolds. "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."
"Most people who apply for funds do so honestly," said Federal Coordinating Officer Michael Karl, "but every now and then a person tries to take undue advantage of the disaster assistance system."
"A number of methods are used to detect fraud," said Karl. "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."
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 TTY: 1-800-462-7585 (for the speech and hearing impaired) to withdraw or correct an application and prevent prosecution.
Those who suspect abuse of disaster assistance programs, please report it to the fraud hotline: 1-800-323-8603.
FEMA coordinates the federal government's role in preparing for, preventing, mitigating the effects of, responding to, and recovering from all domestic disasters, whether natural or man-made, including acts of terror.