LINCROFT, N.J -- The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s primary mission is to help citizens and first responders prepare for, respond to and recover from all manner of disasters. To that end, FEMA takes the disbursement of necessary funds to the proper parties very seriously.
People who intentionally try to defraud the government are taking money away from those who truly need assistance. FEMA must ensure that taxpayer dollars go only to people who incurred legitimate losses. This may include prosecuting anyone who makes a fraudulent claim.
People who are caught trying to claim false losses can be charged with a felony and, if convicted, face a maximum five- to 10-year prison term and up to $250,000 in fines.
If you know of someone who is filing false damage claims with FEMA, you should report this or other instances of fraud, waste or abuse to the Fraud Hotline at 1-800-323-8603. The line is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Caller identification will remain confidential.
Calls may be answered by a recorded message. The caller will be asked a few questions. The information will be entered into the data system and assigned to a field investigator. If the caller left a name and phone number, it will be the investigator who will call back, not the person who took the call. An inspector has 90 days to verify the complaint. Calls can be taken in both English and Spanish.
You can also fax a complaint to 1-202-254-4292, fill out an online form on the Office of Inspector General website (www.oig.dhs.gov) or send mail to: Office of Inspector General/MAIL STOP 0305, Department of Homeland Security, 245 Murray Drive SW, Building 410, Washington, DC 20528.
Special agents from the Office of Inspector General use a number of methods to detect fraud. An automated system cross-checks information with other agencies and insurance companies to weed out duplicate applications. Field inspections are conducted to verify losses and damages for every person who applies to FEMA for individual assistance. Potential cases of fraud or misuse are referred for prosecution as federal offenses.
Conducting audits and investigating possible fraudulent activities is standard procedure in all federal disaster operations. The U.S. Department of Justice prosecutes cases that result in criminal charges.
Any applicant who has made a mistake when reporting damage or has misrepresented losses has the opportunity to correct or cancel their claim. Individuals need to call FEMA’s Helpline, 1-800-621-FEMA, to withdraw or correct an application and prevent prosecution.
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.
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