ALBANY, N.Y. – New York residents are urged to be alert for potential fraud during recovery and rebuilding efforts following Tropical Storm Lee, officials with the New York State Office of Emergency Management (NYSEMO) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) said today.
Recently, residents in Tioga County have encountered a potential fraudster canvassing certain neighborhoods claiming to be a “financial consultant” allegedly doing a survey for FEMA in a bid to obtain personal financial information.
Many legitimate persons -- insurance agents, FEMA Community Relations personnel, local inspectors and real contractors -- may have to visit a storm-damaged property. Survivors could, however, encounter people posing as inspectors, government officials or contractors in a bid to obtain personal information or collect payment for repair work. Your best strategy to protect yourself against fraud is to ask to see identification in all cases and to safeguard your personal financial information.
All New Yorkers are reminded that all FEMA employees and contractors wear a laminated photo identification -- a FEMA shirt or jacket alone is not sufficient proof that someone works for FEMA. FEMA inspectors may require verification of identity but will not ask for personal financial information during a home inspection. FEMA and U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) staff never charge applicants for disaster assistance, inspections or for help filling out applications. FEMA inspectors verify damage but do not recommend specific contractors.
Be suspicious of someone who:
- Has no physical address or proper identification
- Wants your personal financial information
- Demands cash or full payment up front for home repairs
- Urges you to borrow to pay for repairs, then steers you to a specific lender or tries to act as an intermediary between you and a lender
- Asks you to sign something you have not had time to review.
To avoid scams:
- Question strangers and demand to see identification
- Never give any personal financial information to an unfamiliar person
- Never sign any document without first reading it fully. Ask for an explanation of any terms or conditions you do not understand
- Do your own research before borrowing money for repairs. Compare quotes, repayment schedules and rates. If they differ significantly, ask why.
If you believe you are the victim of a scam or price gouging, contact local law enforcement and report it to the New York State Office of the Attorney General. Call the Consumer Helpline at 1-800-771-7755 or download a complaint form online at www.ag.ny.gov.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has information that can help you be smart about home improvement loans. Find out more about federal and community-based programs, as well as general consumer advice.
These are not the only post-disaster scams you may encounter. For more information about avoiding charitable giving scams, visit the Federal Trade Commission’s website at http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2011/05/homerepair.shtm
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.