Marion, Ill. -- Disasters typically bring out the very best in people and there are countless stories of neighbors helping neighbors. Unfortunately, some scam artists try and take advantage of disaster survivors looking for help, by trying to gather your personal information or to collect payment for disaster assistance.
If there is any doubt, do not give out information, and report people claiming to be government workers to local authorities. To safeguard against disaster-related fraud, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) officials recommend the following precautions:
- Ask for official laminated photo ID. A FEMA shirt or U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) jacket is not absolute proof of identity.
- Safeguard personal information. Do not give personal information such as Social Security and bank account numbers unless you initiate the call. FEMA inspectors never require this information. Applicants wanting direct deposit for grant assistance are asked for bank account information after they call or go online to apply; on follow-up calls, a FEMA representative may ask only for the last four digits of an applicant's Social Security number to verify identity.
- Beware of people going door-to-door. People going door-to-door to damaged homes, or phoning homeowners claiming to be building contractors could be scam artists, especially if they solicit financial information.
- FEMA Community Relations staff distribute flyers that mention personal information such as Social Security and bank account numbers. However, they will not ask for this personal information from applicants; they are merely telling what information applicants should have on hand when they call or go online to apply for help.
- Federal workers do not solicit or accept money. FEMA and SBA staff never charge applicants for disaster assistance, inspections or help in filling out applications. FEMA inspectors verify damage, but do not hire or endorse specific contractors to fix homes or recommend repairs.
Suspicious activity should be reported to local authorities or to the FEMA application Helpline at 1-800-621-FEMA (3362), TTY 1-800-462-7585. The same number can be used to apply for FEMA assistance, or by web enabled mobile device m.fema.gov, or go online to www.disasterassistance.gov.
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.