This year, an unusually active hurricane season brought strong and destructive storms, a pandemic swept the globe and a record number of wildfires burned in the West. This has left many disaster survivors in vulnerable situations and has led to an increase in scammers looking to take advantage of people during stressful times.
Scams can take many different forms, including phone calls, texts, mail or email, websites, or in person.
Here’s how a scam might look:
You receive an email from someone claiming to be a FEMA employee. They ask for your cash app information and social security number. They claim they will send you money after you send them this information.
In this scenario, it is likely the message is a scam sent from a fake account. It is important to remember that FEMA will never ask you for money or fees to provide disaster assistance. FEMA websites will be identified as official U.S. Government sites and will never accept credit card information for payments or donations.
Here are five ways to recognize and prevent scams.
- Don’t trust anyone who offers financial help and then asks for money or personal information. Federal and local disaster workers do not solicit or accept money.
- Resist the pressure to act immediately. Scammers pressure you to provide information immediately, they want you to act before you have time to think.
- Know how scammers will ask you to pay. They often insist that you pay by sending money through a money transfer company or by putting money on a gift card and then giving them the number on the back.
- Stop and talk to someone you trust. Before you do anything else, tell someone - a friend, a family member, a neighbor - what happened. Talking about it could help you realize it’s a scam.
- Research and be aware of common scams by visiting the Federal Trade Commission website.
FEMA also works to identify these scams and protect survivors from them. When we suspect fraudulent behavior, we work with federal partners to act against those bad actors. We monitor the use of agency logos and trademarks and the Department of Homeland Security seal and have successfully removed unauthorized products and fraudulent websites seeking online donations.
We also use best practices such as data mining, pattern recognition, awareness training and other techniques to proactively mitigate and stop fraud – often before funds are sent. FEMA coordinates and shares information with federal and state partners to improve fraud prevention efforts across the nation.
You can help prevent scams and disaster fraud by reporting them. If something about a situation makes you feel uncomfortable or you suspect fraud, report it to local law enforcement, the FEMA Disaster Fraud Hotline or the Department of Justice Fraud Hotline.