FRANKFORT, Ky. -- While most people registering for help have genuine needs, the rush to get millions in disaster assistance to those affected by disasters such as the Feb. 29 - March 3 storms and tornadoes, sadly presents opportunities to defraud taxpayers.
Most cases in which possible fraud is detected are not deliberate attempts to defraud the federal government. The Federal Emergency Management Agency recommends applicants receiving grant money keep receipts to show how funds were used.
If fraud does occur during disaster recovery, FEMA has a responsibility to take action. Fraudulent claims increase the cost of recovery, because those without disaster-related losses receive money for which they are not eligible, according to emergency management officials.
People who intentionally try to defraud the government are taking money from all of us - taxpayer money authorized for disaster relief by the president and Congress. FEMA is charged with ensuring disaster relief dollars go only to people who incurred legitimate losses. This can include prosecuting anyone making a fraudulent claim.
FEMA’s Inspector General investigates complaints of fraud, waste or abuse involving FEMA contracts, programs or personnel. It maintains a toll-free Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721.
Potential cases of fraud or misuse can be referred to the U.S. Department of Justice for prosecution. Penalties for felony offenses can be severe.
These are some examples of complaints that typically are filed with the FEMA Office of the Inspector General:
- Applicants used false names and multiple and/or fictitious addresses;
- Applicants claimed losses they didn’t sustain or to which they were not entitled;
- Applicants did not use FEMA money for the intended purposes;
- Municipal officials used FEMA money for their own benefit;
- FEMA checks were stolen; and
- Applicants received duplicate payments from FEMA and their insurance companies.
Complaints also can be filed by writing to:
National Center for Disaster Fraud
Baton Rouge, LA 70821-4909
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.