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Disaster Fraud

After a disaster, scam artists, identity thieves, and other criminals often attempt to take advantage of vulnerable survivors.

We recently became aware of some potentially suspicious activity in disaster case files including fraudulent registrations. Extensive review of FEMA system security logs found no indications of compromise to the system, however, we are working with our partners and taking necessary steps to determine the impacts and long-term solutions. We encourage disaster survivors from Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Maria and the California Wildfires to watch for and report any suspicious activity.

Federal Response

  • FEMA instituted additional verification and controls in cases where there was suspicious activity to ensure that only eligible applicants receive assistance.
  • FEMA started notifying survivors, by phone (including prerecorded messages) or mail, that their applications are receiving additional scrutiny.
    • The letters and calls to survivors advise them to contact FEMA to verify their identity through FEMA’s helpline 800-621-3362 (FEMA) or by visiting a local Disaster Recovery Center (DRC).
  • Officials from FEMA, DHS OIG, Department of Treasury and Department of Justice formed a task force to specifically review these fraudulent applications and determine additional actions to take to ensure disaster survivors receive the assistance they need.
  • DHS OIG continues to aggressively investigate allegations of disaster fraud after every federally declared disaster and work with other law enforcement agencies to identify and prosecute individuals who take advantage of programs meant to help those in need.
  • There is an active investigation underway to identify and prosecute anyone associated with criminal acts and FEMA is fully cooperating with the investigation.

Protect Yourself from Fraud and Scams

Remember to protect yourself, and the people you care about, from disaster fraud. Here’s what you should do if:

You try to register for FEMA assistance online, but you receive a verification error. You should call FEMA at 800-621-3362 to complete your registration with a FEMA representative who can tell you the reason for the verification error. If you suspect fraud, contact the Disaster Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721. You can also report fraud to the Federal Trade Commission at www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov.

You receive a call from someone asking to verify your FEMA registration, but you did not apply for FEMA assistance. You may report the name and phone number of the person calling to the Disaster Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721. If you are unsure or uncomfortable with anyone you encounter claiming to be an emergency management official, do not give out personal information, and contact local law enforcement.  All FEMA employees will have a FEMA Badge.

An inspector comes to your home without a FEMA photo ID. Do not let someone in your home who claims to be a FEMA inspector but does not have a FEMA photo ID. Always ask to see a FEMA photo ID badge. A FEMA shirt or jacket is not proof of identity. All FEMA representatives, including our contracted inspectors, will have a laminated photo ID. If unsure, call FEMA at 800-621-3362 (FEMA).

Someone comes to your home to conduct an inspection, but asks for money before starting. Federal and state workers do not ask for—or accept—money. FEMA representatives will never charge for disaster assistance, home inspections, or for help filling out applications. Stay alert for false promises to speed up the insurance, disaster assistance, or building permit process.

To dispel some of the false rumors circulating on the internet and social media, we also have a dedicated website to address some of the most common themes. To get the most accurate information from trusted sources visit our rumor control pages for Hurricane Maria, Hurricane Irma, and Hurricane Harvey

How to Report Suspicious Activity or Fraud

  • Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG)
    • Phone: 1-800-323-8603, TTY 1-844-889-4357.
    • Web: www.oig.dhs.gov
    • Fax: 202-254-4297
    • Mail: DHS Office of Inspector General: Mail Stop 0305, Department of Homeland Security, 245 Murray Drive SW, Washington, DC 20528-0305.
       
  • FEMA’s Office of the Chief Security Officer (OCSO) Tip line
  • National Center for Disaster Fraud Hotline
  • Federal Trade Commission (If survivors discover that someone is misusing their information they should file a complaint)

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1: What should disaster survivors who did not apply for disaster assistance do if they suspect that they are a victim of disaster fraud?

A1: Survivors can report disaster fraud to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG), FEMA’s Office of the Chief Security Officer (OCSO), the National Center for Disaster Fraud Hotline, and the Federal Trade Commission. See the section “How to Report Suspicious Activity or Fraud” above for details.

Q2: If I was a victim of disaster fraud, and do not need disaster assistance, how do I cancel the application/notify FEMA?

A2: Individuals should contact the FEMA Helpline at (800) 621-3362 or visit a local Disaster Recovery Center to advise that they had not previously registered for FEMA assistance, and do not wish to register. They will not need to take further action. The original application will be locked to maintain a record of the potentially fraudulent file.

Q3: If I was a victim of disaster fraud, but I still need to apply for assistance, what should I do?

A3: Survivors and other individuals should contact the FEMA Helpline at (800) 621-3362 or visit a local Disaster Recovery Center to advise that they had not previously registered for FEMA assistance, and that they wish to register. The case will be referred to DHS OIG.

Q4: If I tried to apply, but the system said I have already applied, what should I do?

A4: Contact FEMA’s Helpline at 1-800-621-3362 or visit a local Disaster Recovery Center.

Q5: Will I need to wait until the investigation is complete, before I can register for assistance?

A5: No. FEMA does not need to complete the investigation before a survivor can have their new registrations taken. However, FEMA will need to verify the individual’s identity.

Last Updated: 
10/27/2017 - 09:02