FRANKFORT, Ky. -- "Watch out for identity theft." That is the message from the Kentucky Emergency Management Division (KYEM) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
Pretending to be commonwealth or federal officials, identity thieves may telephone or e-mail people who have disaster losses. The imposter claims there is a disaster assistance grant or loan for the resident which requires the resident's bank account number, Social Security number, or other personal information to complete the processing.
In some cases, the imposter may even ask for a "processing fee" up front to be paid by either credit card or an online payment service.
"Don't be fooled by scams like these," warns KYEM Director Brig. Gen. John W. Heltzel. "Neither FEMA nor the commonwealth will ever call you asking for that information or for a fee of any kind," he explained.
A twist on the same scheme is to pose as a volunteer offering to help fill out an application for disaster assistance. The person's real aim is to steal the victim's identification and banking information.
"Guard your personal information from strangers," said Federal Coordinating Officer Kim Kadesch. "The only time FEMA collects personal and banking information is when the applicant first registers for assistance and requests direct deposit for aid funds. That occurs only when the applicant calls FEMA, not the other way around."
FEMA and commonwealth representatives carry photo identification. Ask to see it. If still unsure, call FEMA to verify at 800-621-FEMA (3362) or TTY 800-462-7585.
"If you suspect anyone of trying to steal your banking information, Social Security number or other personal data, please report it to local law enforcement," Heltzel said.
FEMA's mission is to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain, and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards.
Disaster recovery assistance is available without regard to race, color, religion, nationality, sex, age, disability, English proficiency or economic status. If you or someone you know has been discriminated against, call FEMA toll-free at 800-621-FEMA (3362). For TTY call 800-462-7585.