AUSTIN, Texas – State and federal recovery officials urge Texans affected by the ongoing severe storms and floods to watch for and report any suspicious activity or potential fraud.
Even as government agencies and charitable groups continue to provide disaster assistance, scam artists, identity thieves and other criminals may attempt to prey on vulnerable survivors. The most common post-disaster fraud practices include phony housing inspectors, fraudulent building contractors, bogus pleas for disaster donations and fake offers of state or federal aid.
“Scam attempts can be made over the phone, by mail or email, or in person,” said Federal Coordinating Officer Kevin Hannes of Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). “Con artists are creative and resourceful, so we urge Texans to remain alert, ask questions and require identification when someone claims to represent a government agency.”
Survivors should also keep in mind that state and federal workers never ask for or accept money, and always carry identification badges with a photograph. There is no fee required to apply for or to get disaster assistance from FEMA, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) or the state. Additionally, no state or federal government disaster assistance agency will call to ask for your financial account information; unless you place a call to the agency yourself, you should not provide personal information over the phone – it can lead to identity theft.
Those who suspect fraud can call the FEMA Disaster Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721 (toll free). Complaints may also be made to local law enforcement agencies.
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-FEMA (3362). For TTY call 800-462-7585.
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. Follow us on Twitter at https://twitter.com/femaregion6.
The SBA is the federal government’s primary source of money for the long-term rebuilding of disaster-damaged private property. SBA helps businesses of all sizes, private non-profit organizations, homeowners and renters fund repairs or rebuilding efforts and cover 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. For more information, applicants may contact SBA’s Disaster Assistance Customer Service Center by calling (800) 659-2955, emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, or visiting SBA’s website at www.sba.gov/disaster. Deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals may call (800) 877-8339.