TRENTON, N.J. – Fraud can be a big problem in areas struck by disasters, according to officials from the New Jersey Office of Emergency Management and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
The damage caused by Hurricane Irene may leave many homeowners, renters, and business owners vulnerable to fraudulent offers of help. New Jersey residents may be the target of some familiar scams.
FEMA-contracted inspectors call to schedule an appointment before visiting a home. The inspectors always wear a photo ID and know the applicant’s name and registration number. Never pay a fee for help. FEMA never charges for disaster assistance.
Look out for:
Fake offers of help getting state or federal aid: Some scam artists walk around carrying a clipboard with official-looking forms; this is no proof they are with a state, federal or voluntary agency serving those affected by the disaster. Never reveal personal information when you are unsure of the person or organization.
Bogus solicitations: It can be hard to resist pleas for a donation to help survivors. A solicitation may arrive by email, someone may call, or you may get a knock at the door. Research the charitable organization by getting an exact name and phone number or call the charity directly and confirm the person asking for funds is an employee or volunteer. To be safe, you may want to donate to one or more of the major voluntary organizations.
Disreputable contractors: Homeowners should refuse offers from contractors knocking on doors offering to make repairs. Avoid this scam by using licensed local contractors, asking for references and checking them before entering into a contract. Legitimate contractors will have more work than they can handle after a disaster. Be sure to ask for a written estimate from at least three contractors, including labor and materials. Make sure they are insured and read the fine print.
The Department of Homeland Security has established a Fraud Prevention web page, but members of the public can also call the Fraud Prevention Hotline at 1-800-323-8603.
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.
Follow FEMA online at http://blog.fema.gov, 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 are provided for reference only. FEMA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, or applications.