SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – Survivors of Hurricane Maria are urged to be aware of con artists trying to rip them off by claiming they will register them or help obtain disaster relief.
Inspectors and representatives of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) or other agencies that work with you to register you for assistance will have identification.
Relief agencies warn individual survivors and homeowners that bogus contractors and scam artists may target them during disaster recoveries.
A common fraud involves people posing as representatives of FEMA and the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). Government workers never ask for a fee or payment. They always wear official government photo IDs.
Relief officials say survivors can take these steps to protect against fraud:
- Before any work begins, get a written contract detailing all work to be performed, the costs, a projected completion date and how to negotiate changes and settle disputes.
- Take a picture of your contractor, his vehicle and its licenseplate.
- Take a picture of the contractor’s business card and his driver’slicense.
- Don’t offer personal financial information over the phone. Know who you are dealing with. Ask for identification.
- Watch out for middlemen who promise you will receive disaster grants or money, especially if they ask for an upfront payment.
The job of FEMA housing inspectors is to verify damage. Inspectors do not hire or endorse specific contractors to fix homes or recommend repairs. They do not determine eligibility for assistance.
If you suspect anyone – an inspector, disaster survivor or someone posing as one of these – of fraudulent activities, call the free FEMA Disaster Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721, the SBA Disaster Assistance Customer Service Center at (800) 659-2955, or local law enforcement.
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.
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 (voice, 711/VRS - Video Relay Service)
(TTY: 800-462-7585). Multilingual operators are available (press 2 for Spanish).
The SBA is the federal government’s primary source of money for the long-term rebuilding of disaster-damaged property. SBA helps businesses of all sizes, private non-profit organizations, homeowners and renters, which can cover the cost of replacing lost or disaster-damaged real estate and 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.