WINDSOR, Conn. — Hurricane Sandy survivors beware: There may be con artists trying to get their hands on your disaster assistance money or personal financial information.
After a disaster, crooks may pretend to be employed by FEMA or the U.S. Small Business Administration. They may try to obtain personal information such as Social Security and bank account numbers or they may promise to increase your disaster assistance grant for a fee, something a federal employee would never do.
Some consumer safety tips to remember:
- There is never a fee to apply for FEMA assistance or to receive it;
- There are no fees for FEMA or SBA property damage inspections; and
- Government workers never ask for payment to perform their duties.
Asking to see identification is a disaster survivor’s best defense against such criminals and scam artists. All authorized federal personnel are required to wear photo IDs at all times. A FEMA or SBA shirt or jacket is not proof of affiliation with these agencies.
All government- or contractor-issued ID badges should be produced by the bearer without hesitation or reluctance. A FEMA contract inspector who comes to your home will be able to provide your FEMA registration number.
If private insurance adjusters and local building code inspectors visit your property, they should also be able to provide identification on demand.
Anyone suspecting fraud should call the FEMA Disaster Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721. Complaints may also be made to local authorities or the Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection at www.ct.gov/dcp or by calling 800-842-2649 (in the Hartford area, call 860-713-6110).
Contractor fraud can also be a problem after a disaster. Remember these tips before signing a home repair contract:
- Get three written estimates; then check each contractor’s credentials and references. Contact the Better Business Bureau or local chamber of commerce to see if there are outstanding complaints against the contractor;
- Obtain a written contract detailing all work to be performed, costs, a projected completion date, and procedures to negotiate changes and settle disputes;
- Any guarantees should be in writing.
Disaster recovery assistance is available without regard to race, color, religion, nationality, sex, age, disability, English proficiency or economic status. If you or someone you know has been discriminated against, call FEMA toll-free at 800-621-3362. For TTY, call 800-462-7585.
The U.S. Small Business Administration is the federal government’s primary source of money for the long-term rebuilding of disaster-damaged private property. SBA helps homeowners, renters, businesses of all sizes, and private, nonprofit organizations fund repairs or rebuilding efforts and covers the cost of replacing lost or disaster-damaged personal property. These disaster loans cover losses not fully compensated by insurance or other recoveries and do not duplicate benefits of other agencies or organizations.
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.