DOWNERS GROVE, Ill. -- Con artists in Illinois and neighboring states have attempted to defraud people who had damage from flooding or have tried to defraud the government.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) warn residents to keep these points in mind:
- FEMA does not charge for information that it gives out, such as a referral to a Disaster Recovery Center or information on how to apply for federal assistance. Apply free online at www.DisasterAssistance.gov or call 1-800-621-3362 (TTY 1-800-462-7585).
- FEMA does not send out text messages asking recipients to call fee-based telephone numbers. The toll-free numbers above are used for all contact with FEMA, including applying and follow-up.
- FEMA and the U.S. Small Business Administration do not charge fees for information regarding filling out the SBA loan applications. Free help is available at a Disaster Recovery Center or by calling SBA’s toll-free number, 1-800-659-2955 (TTY 1-800-877-8339). SBA does not charge closing costs on its low-interest disaster loans.
- The claim that “very little proof is required” to get disaster assistance is a misconception. Before FEMA funding is disbursed, a housing inspection is made and damages are documented. Defrauding the government is a crime. Disaster grants must use funds for the purpose given or FEMA may ask for the money to be returned. For example, rental assistance must be used for rent and receipts will be required to maintain eligibility.
Anyone with knowledge of fraud, waste or abuse may call the FEMA Fraud Hotline at 1-800-323-8603. You may also send an email to DHSOIGHotline@dhs.gov. Complaints may also be made via the FEMA Helpline at 1-800-621-3362 (TTY 1-800-462-7585) or with state or local law enforcement officials or consumer agencies.
Illinois Attorney General fraud hotlines are available as follows:
Chicago, 1-800-386-5438 (TTY 1-800-964-3013)
Springfield, 1-800-243-0618 (TTY 1-877-844-5461)
Carbondale, 1-800-243-0607 (TTY 1-877-675-9339)
Spanish Language, 1-866-310-8398
Tips for avoiding disaster recovery fraud are also available online at www.illinoisattorneygeneral.gov/consumers/disaster.html .
Follow FEMA online at www.twitter.com/fema, www.facebook.com/fema, and www.youtube.com/fema. Also, follow Administrator Craig Fugate's activities at www.twitter.com/craigatfema. The social media links provided are for reference only. FEMA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies or applications.
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.