Disaster Survivors: Be On the Lookout for Scam Artists

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Release date: 
October 4, 2011
Release Number: 
4025-046

HARRISBURG, Pa. -- Pennsylvania residents should be alert for individuals trying to scam those seeking assistance following the recent severe storms and flooding. Unfortunately, after a disaster, some individuals try to take advantage of people looking for help by trying to gather personal information or by trying to collect payment for disaster assistance.

If you suspect anyone to be misrepresenting themselves, call the Disaster Fraud Hotline at 1-800-323-8603. Remember: FEMA will never charge for disaster assistance or inspections. Anyone asking for a fee for disaster assistance is not a FEMA representative and may be attempting to commit fraud.

To protect yourself against fraud, follow these tips:

  • Ask to see ID. All FEMA representatives have identification with their name and photograph. Ask anyone who approaches you as a FEMA representative for identification.
  • Safeguard personal information. Do not give bank account or personal information like Social Security numbers to individuals claiming to be affiliated with FEMA or another government agency. FEMA will only ask for your Social Security and bank information when you call or go online to register, never in person.
  • Be wary of people who come to your door. Individuals who appear at your door without an appointment and claim to offer disaster relief could be trying to commit fraud. FEMA housing inspectors work by appointment. If you have not contacted FEMA or are not expecting a FEMA inspector, take extra care.
  • Use licensed contractors. During the rebuilding process, be sure to use only licensed contractors. Ask the contractor for a license and for references. Get several estimates from contractors and be sure they carry liability and workers' compensation insurance and are bonded. Homeowners could be liable for accidents on their property if they hire an uninsured contractor.

By exercising caution and common sense, disaster survivors can ensure they don't compound their losses by falling victim to fraud. If you are unsure that the person at your door is who they claim to be, check their ID. When in doubt, call the FEMA helpline at 1-800-621-FEMA (3362).  If you have a disability and would like help don't hesitate to contact FEMA.

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.

Last Updated: 
July 16, 2012 - 18:46
State/Tribal Government or Region: 
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