INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- Indiana residents are urged to be alert for and report potential fraud during recovery and rebuilding efforts following the recent tornadoes and severe storms. Scam artists may approach survivors in person, by telephone or via the Internet.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Indiana Department of Homeland Security (IDHS) 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 (800) 621-3362 (TTY (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, (800) 659-2955 (TTY (800) 877-8339). SBA does not charge closing costs on its low-interest disaster loans.
- Safeguard personal information. Do not give Social Security numbers, bank account information or the FEMA registration number to individuals claiming to be affiliated with the federal government. FEMA inspectors never require this information.
When registering with FEMA, applicants are asked for their Social Security number. If using direct deposit, applicants also provide a bank number. If a FEMA representative makes a follow-up call to you, he or she will ask for the last four digits of your Social Security number and verify other critical information, depending on the reason for the call.
- Before FEMA funding is disbursed, a housing inspection is made and damage is 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.
Anyone who has been victimized by fraud or suspects fraudulent activity should report it to the Indiana Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division, (800) 382-5516, or the FEMA Disaster Fraud Hotline, (866) 720-5721. Calls are completely confidential.
For more information, visit the Indiana Attorney General’s website at http://www.indianaconsumer.com.
Federal disaster aid was made available on March 9 to the State of Indiana to supplement state and local recovery efforts in areas affected by severe storms, straight-line winds, and tornadoes during the period of Feb. 29 to March 3, 2012 in Clark, Jefferson, Ripley, Scott, Warrick and Washington counties.
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.